Three years after an upgrade to part of its lead-paint rule took place and still without any kits that meet its tougher standard, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has neither plans nor resources to promote the creation of kits designed to accurately detect the presence of lead in paint, the EPA has told building industry leaders.

The agency's July 31 letter to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), acquired by REMODELING on Oct. 14, in effect means that remodelers remain stuck with test kits that incorrectly indicate the presence of lead 22.5% to 84% of the time. Such false positives force remodelers to spend thousands of dollars on additional lab tests or else invest substantial resources and money to abide by the provisions of the EPA's Lead Renovation, Repair, and Painting ( RRP) rule.

RRP requires that remodelers working on projects in homes, child care facilities, and pre-schools built before 1978 must check for the presence of lead paint (which was commonly used until that year). If tests detect lead paint, a company certified in lead-safe work practices must then do the work.

The rule took effect in April 2010 with a requirement that, by September of that year, any kits used to test for lead paint must give false negative readings less than 5% of the time and false positives on no more than 10% of the tests. EPA based its requirement on the assumption that private companies would have products on the market by then, because since 2008 it had been reviewing kits that at least were intended to limit the number of false positives.

"Despite the EPA's commitment of resources to this effort, to date no company's test kit has met both of the performance criteria outlined in the RRP rule," James J. Jones, EPA's acting assistant administrator, wrote in the letter to NAHB. "The EPA is unaware of any test kit currently available or under development that would meet the positive criterion." He did note that the three test kits commercially available meet the false negative threshold and continue to recognized by EPA, but they have false positive rates of 22.5% to 84%.

"At this time, the EPA has no plans or resources to sponsor additional testing of kits as was done previously through the agency's ETV [Environmental Technology Verification] program," Jones added. Until a test kit comes along the meets both the false positive and false negative standards, the kits that meet only the false negative criteria will continue to be recognized.

--Webb is editor-in-chief of REMODELING. On Twitter, follow him at @craiglwebb and  REMODELING at @remodelingmag.