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AUGUST 2, 2005
11:47 AM

Chas Offutt (202) 265-7337


EPA Mulling Regulatory Options on Lead Paint
Agency Looking at Economics Not Public Health in Crafting Renovation Rule


WASHINGTON - August 2 - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is now preparing draft regulations governing lead-safe repair and renovation in older housing, according to agency documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). After months of dissembling, EPA is now openly committed to proposing regulations that it was required to have in place back in 1996 by the end of this year.

A June 16, 2005 briefing for EPA Administrator Steve Johnson admits that eliminating lead hazards in home repair is the last major step towards meeting the national goal of ending “childhood lead poisoning by 2010.” The briefing paper also stresses “there is a relationship between renovation and elevations in children’s blood lead levels.” The agency estimates that 7.7 million repairs or renovations occur each year in older housing containing lead-based paint.

Nonetheless, several of the options the agency is reviewing fall well short of meeting legal requirements that workers be trained in lead-safe practices whenever remodeling housing constructed before 1978:

  • One option limits lead safe repair only to “child occupied” homes, leaving adults as well as children who later move into lead dust-laden homes at risk;
  • Another option would apply rules only to pre-1960 housing, omitting millions of units built between 1960 and 1978 that contain lead-based paint; and
  • Most of the options lack both prescriptive standards spelling out unsafe practices that would be prohibited and enforcement programs.

EPA is not conducting any studies on which options have the best public health return. Instead, the agency is only performing economic analyses of the breakeven point for proposed rules as measured by the number of children under age 7 who must avoid losing an IQ point for the regulation to be justified.

“EPA is again trying to weasel out of its statutory obligations under the Toxic Substances Control Act to protect public health,” stated PEER General Counsel Richard Condit, whose organization exposed EPA’s decision to completely abandon the lead repair and renovation regulation and led the campaign this spring to force EPA to reverse that decision. “Five years ago, EPA’s own analyses showed that full compliance with the law will net billions in net benefits annually but the agency buried that work because the Bush administration opposed anything that resembled regulation.”

In July, PEER organized a coalition of a more than a dozen public health organizations that filed a formal 60-day notice of intent to sue EPA for its nine-year delay in adopting regulations to ensure that repairs and renovations in older housing are conducted in a lead-safe manner. The groups will be able to sue EPA in early September, months before EPA’s promised new deadline for producing an initial draft proposal for discussion.

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