The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has once again proposed further changes to the lead paint laws. Under the most recent proposal, contractors removing or replacing painted window or door frames or removing more than 40 square feet of painted trim or molding would be required to perform specific dust-wipe sampling tests on uncarpeted floors, windowsills, and window troughs in the work area.

This dust-wipe testing would be performed after the contractor has completed lead-safe work practices. The locations for dust-wipe samples would depend on the number of rooms, hallways, or stairwells in the work area.

The dust-wipe samples can only be taken by an individual specifically licensed by the EPA as a certified inspector, certified risk assessor, or certified dust sampling technician. The EPA strongly suggests this be an individual different from the person acting as the contractor’s certified renovator. In any event, it means more licensing and training costs for the contractor: The samples need to be sent out within one business day of completing the job to a lab certified by the National Lead Laboratory Accreditation Program. The contractor would pay for the analysis and within three days of receiving the results, would send a copy to the customer.

If the results show no problem, the renovation would be considered complete and the work area could be reoccupied. But if the results show a problem, the contractor may need to consider if his company should return to re-clean the area, which would mean reestablishing lead-safe work practice protocols.

Wait and See

We’ll have to wait to see if this latest government proposal becomes law, but our expectation is that dust-wipe rules will take effect by year-end or by spring of 2011.

lead-safe work practices were designed to keep the customer safe from lead paint exposure in the first place. If flaws exist in the EPA’s lead-safe work practices, it seems unlikely that a new level of licensing and testing burdens for contractors will correct them.

—D.S. Berenson is the Washington, D.C., managing partner of Johanson Berenson LLP (, a national law firm specializing in the representation of contractors and the home improvement industry. He may be contacted at 703.759.1055 or [email protected].

This article is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice.