The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has given contractors
four more months to obtain lead paint safety training, but Angie’s List is urging homeowners not to be confused by the delay.
“Contractors are getting more time for training, but they’re still required to work safely around lead paint and to keep that toxin away from homeowners, their families and the work crew,” said Angie Hicks, founder of Angie’s List, the nation’s premier provider of consumer reviews
on local service companies.
The new lead safety certification rules were to have been effective April 22. The EPA has extended that deadline to October 1, 2010. The rules require any contractors who might disturb lead paint in homes, schools and child care facilities built before 1978 to be trained and accredited in proper lead safety techniques.
Some advocates, contractors and public health officials complained that contractors weren’t given enough time to get all their workers to the training sessions, and that too few homeowners and contractors know about the new requirements. They also question whether the EPA can effectively enforce them. Nearly one in five contractors who work around lead paint is not familiar with the new rules, according to a survey of service companies rated on Angie’s List.
Lead paint is present in more than 38 million U.S. homes that were built before the paint was banned in 1978. Angie’s List surveys indicate that most homeowners and many contractors are unaware of the danger and don’t take enough precautions when ripping out walls, updating their décor and doing other home improvement projects that disturb old paint.
If ingested by young children, lead paint chips and dust can lead to irreversible brain and nervous system damage. Projects that could disturb lead paint include remodeling
, interior painting
and exterior painting
. More than 300,000 children in the United States already have dangerous blood lead levels.
“If you live in an older home, part of your research should include lead safety. If your contractor is unaware of the danger or the current requirements, move to the next one on your list. You may get a cheaper estimate for the work from someone who isn’t trained, but that cost saving isn’t worth the risk to your family,” Hicks said.
Hicks said homeowners attempting do-it-yourself projects need to be aware of the new rules too, and follow lead safety protocols.
The law holds contractors responsible for following strict protocols to maximize the containment of poisonous lead dust. It also prohibits unsafe practices, including open-torch burning and high-heat guns, and using high-speed equipment -- such as grinders and sanders -- that don't contain a HEPA filter. Prior to the new rule, all contractors were required to do was notify homeowners of the dangers of lead paint.
Compliance with these new requirements will add to contractors’ costs. Some contractors may play into the hands of budget-conscious homeowners and skirt the regulations in order to offer lower prices than their lead safety certified competition, Hicks warned.
Hicks said homeowners could even go a step further than the regulations to ensure the lead threat is eliminated after the remodeling is complete.
“We hope the regulations will one day also require a clearance test after the renovation is complete, but until that day, we encourage homeowners to take that step on their own,” she said. “The clearance test involves collecting and analyzing dust samples once the job is done. The new requirement calls only for a visual inspection, cleaning with a HEPA vacuum and conducting a wipe test. ”
Homeowners wishing to pay for a clearance test should contact a qualified lead abatement specialist. Angie's List makes it easy for homeowners to find certified providers in its search results and encourages companies that earn the designation to highlight that information on their profiles.
A number of states have adopted their own lead paint rules, and the federal delay doesn’t affect them. Those states include Iowa, Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah and Wisconsin.
3 tips to keep your family safe from lead poisoning during a renovation project
- Ask your contractor if she or he is certified in lead-safe work practices. If you live in a home built before 1978, the answer, very simply, should be “Yes.” And the contractor should have the documentation to back it up.
- Ask, “How will you protect my family from lead dust?” Walk away from any contractor who says it won’t be a problem. A certified contractor should tell you that he or she will follow the new lead-safe work practices, including isolating the area where lead paint will be disturbed with plastic sheeting, posting warning signs, cleaning up thoroughly every day, and avoiding the now-banned removal techniques.
- Make sure your house is free of lead dust after the job is done. Lead dust can be invisible and it doesn’t take much to make your child sick. While the new EPA guidelines call for a cleaning verification, which involves doing a visual inspection, cleaning with a HEPA vacuum and a conducting a wipe test with dry and damp cloths, the only way to be sure that the house is safe, even after thorough cleaning, is to have a clearance exam. Clearance testing involves collecting samples and having them analyzed at a lab for lead content. You can find certified lead testing and removal professionals on Angie’s List.
*1,011 Angie’s List members and 511 service companies who potentially work around lead paint took these polls.
Angie’s List collects consumer reviews on local contractors and doctors in more than 500 service categories. Currently, more than 1 million consumers across the U.S. rely on Angie’s List to help them make the best hiring decisions. Members get unlimited access to local ratings via Internet or phone, exclusive discounts, the Angie’s List magazine and help from the Angie’s List complaint resolution service. Take a quick tour of Angie’s List and view the latest Angie’s List news releases.