EPA Certifications – Lead safety rules

In recent years home renovators have had to comply with the law requiring certified lead inspectors to inspect home and building renovations in buildings built before lead-based paint was banned in 1978. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires contractors to be certified in lead removal, and those individuals are tasked with basically becoming experts in lead safety rules.

Lead exposure can lead a host of health issues — brain damage, organ damage, cancer, developmental delays in children – even death. Most people exposed to lead do not even realize it until years later, when the damage has been done.

Lead-based paint was used often in the 1920’s, 1930’s, and 1940’s. The history of lead paint is ugly. “Lead carbonate, a white powder, was mixed with linseed oil to create the paint that was used in the nation’s homes, hospitals, schools, and other buildings until 1978.  Though its power to harm and even kill children who sucked on lead-painted windowsills, toys, cribs, and woodwork had long been known, it was only in that year that the federal government banned its use in household paints.”

Painting and home renovation activities can stir up lead dust and paint chips in homes, schools, and childcare facilities built before 1978. Homes built before 1940 are particularly vulnerable to having an abundance of not only lead-based paint, but lead in dust particles. Throughout the 20th century, especially after the addition of lead to gasoline in the 1920’s, exposure to lead became an epidemic.  Lead was dispersed to the air, soil, water, and of course widely used as a paint additive.

The 1990’s ushered in major changes in how the United States government regulated lead exposure. In 1992, The Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act (Title X) was passed, to protect families from exposure to lead in soil, paint, or air. In 1996 the Lead Residential Lead-Based Paint Disclosure Program (Section 1018 of Title X) was passed, requiring that potential buyers or renters of homes built before 1978 get specific information about lead and lead hazards before purchase or rental.

The governmental rules regarding lead-based paint are explained in great detail by the government publishing office.


The EPA has specific requirements for those working at homes or buildings where there may be lead exposure.

Before starting renovation, firms must distribute the EPA’s lead hazard information pamphlet “Renovate Right” before starting renovation work. The EPA’s pre-renovation disclosure form  may be used to document compliance.

There are also specific training, certification, and work practice requirements. In addition to firms being certified, their employees have to have training in safe practices for working with lead. Steps must be taken to minimize lead exposure to everyone in the building.


Safe work practices must be followed in any renovation, including:

  • Containment of the work areas to prevent dust and debris from leaving the work area
  • Strict prohibition of practices like open-flame burning and the use of power tools without HEPA exhaust control
  • Thorough cleaning daily followed by a verification procedure to minimize exposure to lead-based paint hazards


According to the EPA, any type of worker who performs work that disturbs paint in a home or building built before 1978 has to be certified. That includes large firms as well as one man businesses.

Examples of the types of firms covered:

  • Residential rental property owners/managers
  • General contractors
  • Special trade contractors, including
    • Painters
    • Plumbers
    • Carpenters
    • Electricians

Firms can’t advertise or perform renovation activities covered by the regulation in homes or child occupied facilities built before 1978 without firm certification.


In April 2010 the EPA issued RRP (Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting) rules. The RRP rules required that contractors renovating inside or outside of buildings in which lead-based paint must be “certified, trained, and follow specific work practices to prevent lead contamination. Noncompliant contractors could be fined up to $37,500 per violation, per day.” (Benjamin Moore)

Contractors seeking certification have to attend an 8 hour EPA-certified course which covers these areas:

  • Procedures on cleanup, dust containment and disposal
  • The documentation and record-keeping requirements
  • Procedures used to alert residents about lead hazards

Once the work has begun, EPA-certified contractors are required to:


According to the EPA, after receiving the certificate showing the EPA certification course has been completed, a contractor can immediately begin working. The certificate of completion serves for 6 months as the interim certification

However, the exam must be taken within 6 months after completing the coursework. It’s important to submit an application for certification to the EPA no less than thirty days after finishing the training course. That gives ample time to take and pass the exam before the interim certification expires. One that certification expires, if you have not passed the exam, you cannot work as an inspector.

Additional information about training and certification can be found here.


Inspectors are not the only contractors who can obtain EPA lead certification. According to the EPA website:

Activities included in each discipline:

  • Inspectors may perform inspection and post-abatement clearance activities.
  • Risk assessors may perform inspection, post-abatement clearance, lead hazard screen, and risk assessment activities.
  • Abatement supervisors may supervise abatement projects and prepare occupant protection plans and abatement reports.
  • Supervisors may also perform all of the abatement activities that may be performed by abatement workers.
  • Project designers may prepare occupant protection plans and abatement reports for abatement projects.
  • Abatement workers may conduct abatement activities under the direction of certified abatement supervisors.


In addition to certification, cleanup, and handling rules, the EPA has very specific recordkeeping rules:

  • Records are required to be kept on the job site include:
  • Records required to be maintained for each job for a period of three years:
    • Copies of the certified renovator’s initial and most recent refresher course completion certificates
    • Non-certified worker training documentation
    • Designation of a certified renovator to the job
    • Information on and results of use of EPA-recognized test kits or paint chip samples by a certified renovator who acted as the representative of the certified firm at the job site and who conducted testing for the presence of lead-based paint on surfaces to be affected by the renovation
    • Lead-based paint inspection reports provided by a certified lead inspector or certified lead risk assessor, if applicable
    • Proof of owner/occupant pre-renovation education
    • Any other signed and dated documents from the owner(s) and/or residents regarding conduct of the renovation and requirements in the EPA RRP Rule
    • All reports required from the certified firm and the certified renovator by the EPA RRP Rule.


Laws and regulations passed in recent years are designed to prevent lead exposure in workers, contractors, and building occupants. The task of creating lead-free spaces is serious and strict adherence to the laws regarding lead inspection and abatement are for the safety of everyone.