man stripping off paint
Photo: Keller & Keller
The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Lead-Based Paint Renovation, Repair and Painting Program Rule (RRP) that went into effect on April 22 has been amended. Your opinion of the change probably depends on what you thought of the original rule.

As first written, the rule had stringent procedures for all contractors, who worked on building built before 1978, about lead paint education and training, paint clean up and containment protocols, and guidelines about notifying occupants regarding the scope of work and the dangers of lead paint in their building.

There is indisputable evidence of the danger of the lead in paint, especially to the developing brains of young kids, and the rules are particularly stringent for buildings used by children and pregnant women.

Detractors of the rule said that it would add to the cost of any job not only because of the time involved getting trained, filling out paperwork and notifying occupants, but also due to the hours spent abiding by the cleanup and containment procedures. A cost, they said, which would have to be passed onto customers in an already stressed economy where a couple of dollars can be the deciding factor in whether a customer signs up for the work or not.

But down deep in the new rules the so-called opt-out clause enabled contractors to forego any of the EPA rules if the building owners signed off on a document that said "no child under age 6 or pregnant women resides in the home and the home is not a child-occupied facility."

Proponents of the RRP cited the clause as a backdoor that would kneecap the rule and negate its intention—to keep kids safe from the dangers of lead paint.

Contained in today's Federal Register (the official daily publication for rules, proposed rules, and notices of government agencies and organizations) is notification that the EPA has eliminated the opt-out provision that currently exempts a renovation firm from the training and work practice requirements of the rule. The final rule is effective July 6, 2010.

If the original rule is going to be changed less that three months after it went into effect, other changes could also occur as the EPA tries to figure out how to enact and enforce this legislation. You probably have not heard the last of this, but if you're a contractor and want to work in pre-1978 buildings, you should sign up for the EPA lead training class, if you haven't already done so.

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