Wayne Baruch, president of The Artisans Group, a construction, restoration, remodeling, and expert witness firm based in Hillsborough, N.J., wrote this letter to REMODELING regarding our report on testimony and lobbying by NAHB Remodelers in favor of legislation reforming the lead-paint rule.

Since our work as an expert witness involves dealing with lead-based paint, I cringe at NAHB’s self-serving, short-sighted efforts. Senator Inhofe’s efforts to cavalierly change laws typify the naïve, insufficiently informed regulator. (Editor's note: Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., is principal sponsor of the lead-paint reform bill in the Senate.)

In my RRP classes, I talk a bit about the ambiguity in the data and epidemiology and the bravado of those who say, “It’s just dust!”  My preferred push-back is, “Lead is a neurotoxin, right? What neurotoxins occur in nature? Venom in some snake, insects, fish, and crustaceans, and botulism. If that dust were botulinum toxin, I dare you to clean it with your bare hand.” Raising the fear and “ick” factors is essential.

Presumably, your research also shows that commercial buildings should be treated just like residences and that the “opt-out” for owner-occupied single-family homes should remain proscribed. NAHB and the senator are ignoring or don’t know about contractors’ duties under OSHA regulations and the fact that even if the “opt-out” were reinstated, neighbors of the home being remodeled have not waived their rights to be safer from lead toxicity. In our expert witness practice, I have cited a painter whose work contaminated neighbors’ properties, and would cite the owner who failed to avoid the spread of contaminants.

Remodelers build the cost and time for safety, cleanup, and protecting plantings into projects. Protecting the environment has to fit into the mix.

P.S.: If you do any follow-up work on the topic, you might want to reference a paper that I wrote two years ago.