Understanding Recent Dust-Lead Clearance Level Changes

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the gold standard for lead abatement specialists. It’s no secret that lead poisoning is a dangerous threat to people who live in homes constructed prior to 1978. With risks like developmental delay, seizures, and weight loss, it’s easy to understand why it’s essential to remove lead long-term through abatement.

Lead abatement professionals need to remain updated on their required lead paint certifications to keep themselves and others safe. People, especially children, who occupy a home with lead need to be protected before, during, and after the abatement process.

To ensure this, the EPA issues updated rules and regulations regarding lead abatement. Most recently, the EPA issued a rule that reduces the amount of lead that can remain in the dust on floors and window sills after removal. Read on to learn more about the dust-level clearance level change.

What Is the Current Dust-Lead Clearance Level?

The dust-lead clearance level (DLCL) is a measure of how much lead remains in dust after an abatement. Through a dust wipe sample, surface dust is collected and sent to a laboratory for analysis. The DLCL must be below the designated clearance levels to achieve approval.

The first DLCL rule was established in 2001, and the approved clearance level was 40 micrograms of lead in dust per square foot (μg/ft2) for floors and 250 μg/ft2 for window sills. Until 2019, the DLCL hadn’t been reevaluated since 2001.

In June of 2019, the EPA announced new and stricter standards for lead in dust after abatement. The agency proposed lowering the clearance levels drastically. The new rule lowered the dust-lead health standards from 40 µg/ft2 on floors and 250 µg/ft2 on window sills to 10 µg/ft2 on floors and 100 µg/ft2 on window sills. Eventually, the new DLCL standards were finalized. The final rule of the new standards officially became effective on January 2, 2020.

Why Did the EPA Change the Clearance Level?

The EPA’s number one priority is reducing childhood lead exposure. Children are by far the most at-risk for lead poisoning, as the effects are generally more damaging to children than adults. Since lead is commonly found in paint chips and dust, children are more likely to come in contact with lead because they often put their fingers and other objects in their mouths. To this day, no blood lead level has been approved as being safe for children.

If children are exposed to lead, they can experience unpleasant and damaging symptoms of lead poisoning. Lead poisoning symptoms in children can include:

  • Delayed growth
  • Behavioral issues
  • Learning problems
  • Hearing loss
  • Anemia
  • Seizures
  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Eating things that aren’t food (pica disorder)

Lead poisoning in children can be devastating for families, which is why the EPA is on a mission to reduce childhood lead exposure as much as possible. Updating the dust-lead clearance level is just one way the EPA is committed to keeping children safe.

Additionally, the EPA continues to strengthen its partnerships with local, state, federal, and tribal governments. In 2018, the federal task force on Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks to Children created the “Federal Action Plan to Reduce Childhood Lead Exposures and Associated Health Impacts.”

This plan, also known as the Lead Action Plan, is in place to increase the federal government’s efforts to identify and reduce lead exposure and ensure exposed children get the support and care they need to prevent or alleviate associated health effects. The lowered DLCL is an action that the EPA committed to in the Lead Action Plan.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is also committed to change alongside the EPA. Lead exposure has been tied to housing inequality for decades. For far too long, children in low-income families and communities have been put at a higher risk of lead exposure compared to their middle-class and high-income counterparts. The HUD and EPA continue to work together to reach the common goal of reducing lead exposure.

Additional Lead Safety Efforts From the EPA

  • February 2020: Made $40 million available to reduce lead in drinking water under the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act
  • March 2020: Made $26 million available to states for the Lead Testing in School and Child Care Program Drinking Water grant program
  • July 2020: Announced a final rule to reduce lead in plumbing materials used in homes, schools, and public water systems
  • October 2020: Released the “Lead Awareness in Indian Country: Keeping Our Children Healthy” curriculum to provide lead exposure education to tribes
  • October 2020: Provided $40 million in grant funding to remove sources of lead in drinking water in underserved schools and communities

Who Needs to Be Aware of the Change?

The main people who need to be aware of the DLCL change are certified lead abatement specialists, such as:

  • People who conduct lead-based paint activities under federal code 745.227.
  • Those who operate a lead accreditation training program under federal code 745.225.
  • Firms or individuals who must get certified to conduct lead-based paint activities.

A comprehensive list of potentially affected people and establishments includes:

  • Lead abatement professionals, firms, and supervisors engaged in lead-based paint activities
  • Landlords, property owners, and real estate lessors of pre-1978 residential buildings
  • Technical and trade school training providers
  • Engineering services, building inspection services, and dust sampling technicians
  • Testing laboratories that examine dust samples for lead
  • Federal agencies that own residential properties
  • Property owners who receive federal housing assistance

Ending Lead Exposure One Step at a Time

The long-term effects of lead exposure are devastating for anyone, especially children. As children in low-income communities continue to be affected by lead poisoning, the EPA is committed to spearheading the effort to reduce and eventually eliminate lead exposure from paint and dust. The new change in dust-lead clearance levels after abatement is just one of the many ways the EPA is taking actionable steps to achieve its goal and keep families safe.