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.