Though Lead has been a prominent component in traditional industrial applications like energy, mining, smelting, and plumbing, the element has recently been identified as one of the 10 most toxic chemicals present on earth. Lead has a limited beneficial use, but more harmful properties are endangering human and animal lives. Thus, the US Federal and State Governments jointly campaigned and legislated strong policies to eliminate Lead from water, air, soil, and consumer products through scientific procedures.
According to US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Lead is present in every part of the ecosystem – in air, water, and soil indoors and outdoors. The amount of Lead found in the ground typically measures 50 to 400 parts per million (ppm), and Lead usually travels far in the air before settling on the ground level. The Lead dust particles moving in the air have the highest probability of spreading toxicity in the environment.
When Lead additives and compounds are used in paint manufacturing processes, the by-products of such processes are known as “Lead paint.” Continued Lead exposure, triggered by dry sanding or chipped paint can put both adults and children at risk of health problems. Children below the age of 6 are considered “at risk’ category, most susceptible to Lead exposure and poisoning. The Lead particles in the human blood stream get deposited in bones and tissues and can remain permanently. If a child accidentally inhales or consumes the toxic substance, even the slightest symptom should alert parents to rush the child to a health clinic for thorough testing and diagnosis.
IPEN’s Alternative to Lead Paint indicates that since the 1950’s, paint and pigment manufacturers have used lead-free pigments, driers, and additives in their products. Current laws mandate that paints and paint products with the low Lead content (below 90 ppm) are acceptable in the global markets.
In the early 1970’s, as a reaction to mitigate the risks of Lead exposure, a large majority of the industrial countries implemented laws to control and reduce Lead content in decorative paints, which are primarily used on home painting, schools, and other “child-occupied” facilities. Use of Lead was also reduced in toys to prevent Lead exposure in children. Lead Level in Children: Fact Sheet contains all the pertinent facts about blood Lead levels in infants. All the regulatory decisions were taken based on scientific and medical evidence proving that lead-laced paint poses serious health hazards to pregnant women, children, and those with occupational Lead exposure.
US EPA’s Lead RRP Program
The US Environmental Protection Agency or the EPA regularly monitors factors that put the environment at risk. As Lead has been designated a highly toxic substance and harmful to the environment by multiple regulatory authorities like the World Health Organization (WHO), The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), IPEN, and Governments across the globe, EPA decided to do something about it.
Painting industry is one industry that markets and sells products for constructed buildings like homes or schools. Thus, paint and pigments that contain Lead are products that directly affect the lives of homeowners, their children, and their pets. As growing consumer data point towards the toxic effects of Lead paints and pigments on the health of pregnant women and children, governments and regulatory authorities has no choice but to come up with strong policies and laws to gradually ban the use of Lead from all consumer products.
US EPA’s Repair, Renovation, and Paint (RRP) Program requires construction firms and construction staff, who provide repair, renovation, or painting services to homes with lead-based paint, undergo rigorous training and certification on how to handle lead-based paint. The leaf-safe practices taught in this training program are used in home renovation and Lead abatement projects. This knowledge proves invaluable during home repair or improvement projects in homes built before 1978.
For the general public, DW Magazine has published an easy-to-understand guide on the Lead RPP Program. This resource is meant for those who find it difficult to follow the EPA guidelines. This resourceful guide broadly states that any property built before 1978 must engage properly trained and certified renovation firms and contractors for handling lead-based paint. The terms of RRP compliance are also described in detail in this guide.
As an added measure, EPA also launched the National Lead Laboratory Accreditation Program (NLLAP) to give recognition to testing laboratories that follow proper procedures to analyze paint particles or soil samples for Lead. All types of laboratories and testing firms are eligible for EPA recognition through NLLAP.
Which Types of Paint Samples Must Undergo EPA-Recognized Laboratory Tests?
Here are two scenarios where Lead samples must be tested in EPA-approved labs under NLLAP:
- In areas where a federal lead-based paint program is conducted, Lead dust samples must be tested in an EPA-approved lab under NLLAP for risk assessment.
- During a Lead abatement, all clearance samples must be analyzed EPA-approved lab under NLLAP.
In Evaluating and Eliminating Lead-Based Paint Hazards, EPA discusses the practice of “Lead abatement,” which involves systematic procedures to detect and remove lead-based paint. As Lead abatement projects require specialized skills, the firms and contractors participating in Lead abatement projects undergo EPA training and certification.
Recent Penalty Imposed for RRP violations
Here are two cases where EPA charged two companies with RRP violations relating to the use of Lead paint:
- Violation penalty incident 1: On October 17, 2016, EPA fined Hammer and Hand Inc., a remodeling firm in Portland, Oregon the sum of $69,398, for not complying with Federal regulations applicable on lead-based paint.
- Violation penalty incident 2: On September 28, 2016, EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice reached a settlement with Sears Home Improvement Products Inc. over disputes relating to RRP violations by Sears in home renovation projects.
Lead Prevention Activism by Other Global Agencies
IPEN’s global campaign for toxic-free living demonstrated through scientific evidence that leaded paint, in spite of its harmful impact, continues to be used in paint products in developing countries even after the advanced nations banned leaded paints 40 years ago. As a follow-up effort, IPEN organized the analysis of 1,500 color samples through NGOs in 30 countries. Finally, IPEN’s proposal to the 2nd International Conference on Chemicals Management was instrumental in creating a global alliance for eliminating Lead paint.
The Government of Australia Department of Environment also has been active in campaigning for the ban of Lead paint for years. In the Lead in House Paint, this publisher of lead-related information, states that the use of Lead in domestic paint declined from 50% (before 1965) to 1% in 1965.This percentage was further reduced to 0.25% in 1992, finally settling at 0.1% in 1997. The Government of Australia published a highly informative booklet on Lead contamination at home during the home renovation. The booklet titled Six Step Guide to Painting Your Home provides tips on painting homes in a lead-safe manner. Homeowners planning home repair or renovation can significantly benefit from this handy publication.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified Lead to be one of the 10 most harmful chemicals. According to WHO, Lead is highly toxic and has the potential to damage the human anatomical parts like the brain, liver, kidney, and bones. A pregnant woman with Lead in her blood puts the unborn fetus at risk of Lead contamination through the placenta.
A Center for Disease Control (CDC) publication, Lead Level in Children: Fact Sheet indicates that the newer regulations on blood Lead levels enable laboratory staff to report blood Lead levels much below 10 micrograms per deciliter of blood. This is good news for parents, doctors, and public health advocates as more Lead exposure cases in children are getting reported.
Searching for a Certified Renovation and Lead Dust Sampling Technician Firms is easy with a page dedicated towards it by the EPA. Though the federal agency covers a majority of the states, certified firms across 14 states are not listed here owing to their RRP programs. You can locate such businesses by logging on to National Lead Information Center. Before hiring the right contractor, ensure that the license of the firm has not be revoked, suspended or modified for any reason.