Tyson's
by Tyson Schwartz
September 7th, 2010

Lead in Water or Windows?

In the construction industry, there has been a lot of discussion around the new Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Law (LRRP). The EPA has cited the combination of lead paint (houses prior to 1978 affected) and remodeling as a major cause of lead poisoning, especially in children.

As I am in the process of raising two little girls, I appreciate the EPA’s motives of protecting young children. However, I do have a challenge with the opt-out clause being removed from the LRRP. The opt-out simply stated that if you didn’t have children under six or pregnant women in the house, and your home had lead in it, you, as the homeowner, had the ability to opt out of having your contactor use expensive lead-safe practices.

From a replacement window perspective, the industry has clearly shown that using lead safe practices adds $120 per window (on the low side). The EPA had forecasted that using lead-safe practices would add no more than $100 to the entire job.

The construction industry has argued that the opt-out should be added back into the LRRP. The EPA has said “no.” citing various reasons, such as that installers and construction workers can take lead dust home and poison their children. We want to protect children; however, when inquiring to the EPA on the study conducted or that can be cited showing that the majority of installers have pregnant women and children under six in their homes, you get a blank stare or silence at the other end of the phone.

The point is that there isn’t a study that has been done showing the above (granted it would be impractical to do because the data would constantly change).

However, I did recently run across an article that I found both shocking and alarming. The article talks about how, in 1986, the federal government enacted a law that reduced the amount of lead in our drinking water plumbing. However, faucets labeled as “lead-free” today actually contain up to a quarter pound of lead.

I was one of the first North Carolinians trained and certified on the LRRP law and lead-safe practices this year. It was explained to me that the amount of lead that can poison a small child is less than the amount found in a sugar packet. Yet, I can go purchase a faucet today that can be labeled lead-free and still contains a whopping quarter-pound of lead.

This same article also cited obvious facts such as that lead will leach into our drinking water through lead found in facets and pipes. The article goes on to say that children under six will absorb and retain 50 percent of the lead they ingest. The EPA also concludes that 15-20 percent of children’s exposure to lead comes from drinking water.

In summary, I want children to be safe from lead poisoning. I support part of the LRRP in using lead-safe practices in homes that test positive for lead and also have small children and pregnant women residing in them. I do not support a blanket law that forces homeowners without the above criteria to use lead safe practices. This seems to be penalizing certain segments of pre-1978 homeowners.

I also would ask the EPA to focus its attention on more obvious sources of lead poisoning, such as our drinking water, including faucets and plumbing labeled “lead-free” when in fact this isn’t the case. Based on my household makeup, I am going out to by a new water dispenser.

Tags:


3 comments
Leave a comment »

  1. I have heard, but can not qualify that some homes in Detroit still have lead plumbing.

    If a contractor uses lead safe practices to install new windows and then the homeowner scrapes the walls and repaints them and then a child gets sick, I am guessing the EPA will go after the contractor who did the windows and look for omissions in the practice and the wrong person will be blamed. and fined.

    There are so many sources of lead for children to get into and I too applaud the EPA for addressing new safe practices, but I don’t think they considered all the ramifications when they decided to focus on one source of lead contamination. And, they clearly didn’t do a proper study of the real costs associated with the new and ever changing rules for best practices.

    I am considering retaking my lead safe class, in order to be up to speed. The EPA site is filled with contradictory statements because they apparently have no way to update their site so that contradictions don’t exist. That spider web of information needs to be deleted and start from scratch. Enforcement will start soon and the contractors will pay the price for misinformation.

    I can tell you from many conversations I have had with contractors that there is a huge misunderstanding about the difference between lead abatement and lead containment. The first thing that should be on the RRP EPA site and every page thereafter should clearly define the difference, so at least that confusion is out of the way. Contractors who misinterpret the difference are spreading the wrong word out there.

    Personally, I think the whole process should be put on hold until the EPA has considered everything properly. I continually tell contractors about lead containment who still haven’t heard about it. Many of them don’t ever use a computer so they feel lost and tend to avoid the reality of this new set of rules (laws). Certainly though, by now, most contractors are aware of the new rules but there is a huge variance in the interpretations. I have spoken to many who have become certified for lead containment and even some of the most basic rules are taught differently from class to class. Confusion is the big issue now and I don’t see and end to it in the near term.

  2. Thanks for the article, and congratulations on your EPA RRP certification. I just wanted to add that the EPA RRP rule also affects landlords and sellers of pre-1978 houses. They must notify their tenants or buyers of known lead paint in the house and give them a pamphlet “Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home.”

    The EPA RRP rule is complex. You can read RRP FAQs answered by EPA here http://www.zipwall.com//lp/EPAFAQ.html. I hope it helps.

  3. Thanks for the informative and interesting article! I agree that it is worrisome that people are choosing to opt-out, since the health problems due to lead and other heavy metals are so dire. Although the new lead containment rules will slightly increase the cost of your remodeling project, I think that the rules are an important development towards protecting human health. Since the new law will eventually be enforced, it’s time to stop complaining about it and do your research to find the least expensive and most effective lead containment materials. If you have the correct materials from the right company, the new rules are not that much of a burden to comply with. http://buildsitepro.com/home.asp

Leave Comment

Current ye@r *