2017 ZOTApro Environmental Protection Scholarship Winner

In April, ZOTA Professional Training solicited applications for its first annual Environmental Protection Scholarship Program. Applicants were asked to focus on the impact of the EPA’s Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule, while the submissions would be judged on the originality and creativity of their essay. ZOTApro had a number of exceptional applicants, and after reading all of the essay submissions, the Grants and Scholarships Committee has reached decision. We are pleased to announce that Kailee S. of Baylor University has been selected as the winner of the 2017 ZOTApro Environmental Protection Scholarship and the recipient of the $1000 award. The full essay submission is published below:

In 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Renovation, Repair, and Painting Rule (hereafter referred to as the RRP Rule) went into effect. This ruling requires EPA Lead Renovator Certification of firms and individuals who are paid to perform renovations, repairs, and painting projects that disturb paint in pre-1978 housing and child-occupied facilities. This ruling includes firms and individuals such as contractors, painters, maintenance workers, and those in specialty trades such as plumbers, carpenters, window replacement workers, and electricians. The ruling also requires that firms and individuals be trained by EPA accredited training providers. Last, the ruling requires that these firms and individuals follow specific lead safety work practices for their renovations, repairs, and painting projects in pre-1978 houses and child-occupied facilities.

After reading the requirements of the rule one of its main goals is to help reduce the exposure of lead to children. Since lead paint was used prior to 1978, the rule focuses on child-occupied facilities and housing built before this time. Lead can have devastating affects on children including behavioral and learning problems, lower IQ’s, hyperactivity, slowed growth, and hearing problems. In severe cases, when a child has ingested lead, it can cause seizures, a coma, and even death. By setting requirements for firms and individuals performing renovations, repairs, and painting projects to pre-1978 child-occupied facilities, it will reduce the exposure of lead to children.

Since lead based paint was used in homes built prior to 1978, another goal is to reduce the exposure of lead when doing renovations, repairs, and painting projects in these homes. By targeting these homes, this rule will also reduce lead exposure to adults and pregnant women.

The impact of the RRP Rule on my life and in my community is quite compelling. As I walked around my university hometown of Waco, Texas and a hometown neighborhood of Southern Pines, North Carolina, I was amazed to see all of the renovations and hometown improvements being made to old homes, many of which were built before 1978. After learning more about the RRP Rule, I became quite thankful for this regulation and how it inadvertently and even unknowingly protected me. Over the years, I have attended schools that were very old and renovated. Over the past year, I lived in a renovated college dorm that was built in the 1960’s and now I realize how the RRP Rule kept me healthy. I realize that my life could have been adversely altered after living in an old, renovated dorm for a year if this rule was nonexistent. I can also see the impact that this rule is currently having at my university and in my hometown community by requiring strict protocols for safe renovation, repair, and painting projects to protect the health of others attending local schools and living in renovated homes.

Even if only one child’s health and life has been saved from lead dust and exposure due to the RRP Rule, the rule has been successful. There have been over 100,000 firms certified by the EPA and approximately 450,000 renovators trained on lead-safety work practices and protocols by an EPA accredited training provider; therefore, I believe that many lives have been saved from lead exposure due to this rule which makes it successful. However, part of the success of the RRP Rule rests on its achieved results expected by the EPA. Based on my research, I believe there are two major areas where the EPA has not achieved its expected results.

The EPA recognizes that there are still many renovators who have not become certified and they are still putting lives at risk of lead exposure. Many renovators believe that the RRP Rule drives up operational costs and cuts into their profits; therefore, they do not comply with the RRP Rule. The EPA can rectify this by increasing the penalty fee of non-compliance so that it would have a greater affect on the renovator’s profit margin. The EPA also needs to have additional resources to monitor compliance. Also, there are firms or individuals who are simply unaware of the RRP Rule. It is generally agreed upon that the EPA can and should do a better job of making firms and individuals aware of the RRP Rule by having more marketing campaigns and by utilizing such organizations as the National Association of Home Builders, the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, and The National Center for Healthy Housing to inform firms and individuals of the RRP Rule.

One of the biggest loopholes in the EPA’s RRP Rule relates to individuals that choose to do their own home renovations. The EPA does not require individuals who choose to do their own unpaid renovations to be certified nor does it require them to utilize lead-safety work practices. With the increase in “do-it-yourself” home renovators, many are still at risk of lead exposure. It is wise for homeowners who live in pre-1978 built homes to hire an EPA certified contractor to do their home renovation; however, the current trend is for “do-it yourself” homeowners to fix up their own homes to save money. In reality, they are putting themselves and their family at risk of being exposed to lead, which could adversely impact their health. The EPA can help to rectify this loophole, by making “do-it-yourself” consumers aware of the risk of lead exposure and encouraging them to seek out an EPA certified renovator to do their renovation.

Although the EPA has some improvements to make to achieve greater success, I am thankful for their recognition of the importance of reducing the risks of lead exposure and for taking the steps necessary to implement the requirements under the Renovation Repair and Painting Rule. By implementing this rule, it has brought an awareness of the dangers of lead exposure, and it has helped to save many lives from the adverse effects of lead dust exposure.