By Hafez Daraee
Dolan Media Newswires
Portland, Ore. — Exposure to lead-based paint is harmful to everyone, especially children. Before the 1978 ban, harmful lead-based paints were used in more than 38 million homes across the country.
In response to the magnitude of this problem, the Environmental Protection Agency in 2008 updated its rules to prevent poisoning from lead-based paint. These new rules immediately changed the certification requirement for businesses providing abatement services. This year, EPA’s revised rules will directly affect contractors.
Beginning in April, federal law will require contractors performing renovation, repair or painting projects that disturb lead-based paint in homes, child-care facilities or schools built before 1978 to be certified and to follow specific work practices to prevent lead contamination.
These new federal laws will apply if the project affects more than 6 square feet of interior space or more than 20 square feet of exterior space. The EPA wants to target homes, schools and commercial buildings where children are present.
Most of the EPA’s rules on lead-based paint focus on work-site practices. For example:
1. Abatement services can be performed only by certified firms that employ certified employees.
2. For interior work
* Items within the work space must be removed or covered with impervious material and sealed to eliminate contamination.
* Ducts and other heating/ventilating openings must be sealed with impervious coverings.
* Rugs and other floor coverings must be sealed with impervious coverings.
3. For exterior work
* Dust from the work area must be contained.
* Ground areas within the work site must be covered by impervious material.
* High-speed equipment such as sanders and grinders can be used only if all exhaust air passes through an HEPA filter first.;
* Heat or flame cannot be used to remove lead-based paint.
The EPA’s rules, however, do not apply if
* The facility has been inspected by a certified inspector who has determined that the lead content present does not exceed EPA guidelines.
* The facility has been tested using an EPA-certified test kit and the tests indicate that the lead present does not exceed EPA guidelines.
* Or if an emergency (very narrowly defined by the rules) exists.
Because lead is presumed to be present if the structure was built before 1978, it is up to contractors working on older buildings to satisfy the EPA requirements or claim one of the three exemptions. Otherwise, contractors may be subject to agency action and civil penalties of up to $25,000 per incident.
The new EPA-certification requirements are added to the state licensing requirements. If a contractor’s business includes renovation or remodeling of older homes and commercial buildings, it should take immediate steps to become EPA-certified.
Hafez Daraee is an attorney in Jordan Schrader Ramis’ Dirt Law and business-law practice groups.