Renovations to homes built before 1978 that involve removing or breaking through paint surfaces face stricter regulations.
Credit: Jupiterimages Corp. Renovations to homes built before 1978 that involve removing or breaking through paint surfaces face stricter regulations.

If your company installs siding or windows — even gutters — you should be aware of new regulations from the EPA that likely will go into effect before the end of the year. The agency has proposed new requirements aimed at lead abatement by residential contractors involved in renovation and repair work. The new regulation covers homes built before 1978 (when lead-based paint was banned in the U.S.) and applies to all renovation work involving removal of lead paint from a surface greater than 2 square feet. The agency estimates that there are more than 38 million homes in the U.S. containing some lead-based paint and that two-thirds of the homes built before 1960 contain lead-based paint.

Requirements The new rule, issued under authority of the Toxic Substances Control Act, is aimed at contractors who perform renovation work that involves removing or breaking through painted surfaces. And what is required if the home was built before 1978?

First, testing. That could be accomplished by a visit from a trained inspector using a portable X-ray fluorescence machine (which measures the amount of lead in the paint) or by sending paint chips to a lab.

Second, education. Companies that perform renovation work would be required to be certified in lead abatement, use certified renovators, and provide on-the-job training for non-certified workers. These companies would be required to apply to the EPA for certification and also would be required to re-certify every three years.

Third, safe abatement. The new requirements specify that contractors working in houses that test positive for lead-based paint isolate the work area to contain release of dust or debris.

The EPA offers a course in safe lead abatement, with course materials — including manuals and DVDs — available by calling 800.424.5323.

Making Contractors Responsible The EPA's new regulations aim to “eliminate childhood health poisonings as a major public health concern by 2010.” Penalties for lack of compliance with the new regulations have yet to be set. At press time, the EPA was still gathering comments, and its proposed new rules had yet to be finalized. Attorney D.S. Berenson of Johanson Berenson LLP, a Washington-based law firm that specializes in representing home improvement companies, believes the new rule will be in place within a year's time. Berenson also says the new regulations unfairly attempt to make residential contractors responsible for a problem they had nothing to do with causing. “They're dropping a mountain on the problem, instead of taking a measured response,” he says.