The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) together have issued new, tighter standards for lead dust found on floors and window sills, lowering the dust-lead hazard standards from 40 micrograms of lead per square foot (µg/ft2) to 10 µg/ft2 on window sills. In December 2018, EPA Administrator Wheeler and other Federal Officials produced the Lead Action Plan, a blueprint for reducing lead exposure and associated harms by working with a range of stakeholders, including states, tribes and local communities, along with businesses, property owners and parents. The more protective dust-lead hazard standards will apply to inspections, risk assessments and abatement activities in housing, certain schools, childcare facilities and hospitals across the country that were built prior to 1978.

The announcement for new standards took place on Friday, June 21, with rules set to become effective 180 days (approximately 6 months) after publishing in the Federal Register. Fines for non-compliance will then become immediately effective.

“EPA is delivering on our commitment in the Trump Administration’s Federal Lead Action Plan to take important steps to reduce childhood lead exposure,” said EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Today’s final rule is the first time in nearly two decades EPA is issuing a stronger, more protective standard for lead dust in homes and childcare facilities across the country.”

The U.S. has been working on lowering children’s blood lead levels since the 1970s. In 2001, the EPA set standards for lead in dust for floors and window sills in housing; however, since that time, the best available science has evolved to indicate human health effects at lower blood lead levels than previously analyzed. New standards address lower levels of tolerance and are incorporated into Section 402/404 lead-based paint activity regulations.

“EPA’s updating its standards for lead dust on floors and window sills in pre-1978 homes and child-occupied facilities is an important advance,” said HUD secretary Ben Carson. “We will use this new rule in updating the lead safety requirements for the pre-1978 housing we assist.”

Carson and Wheeler were joined at the event by EPA Region 8 regional administrator Gregory Sopkin, Evelyn Lim, HUD Region 8 regional administrator and Robin Hickey, deputy director of the Denver Urban Renewal Authority at EPA’s regional office in downtown Denver.

“These new standards will strengthen our efforts to protect young children by reducing lead dust exposure in homes, schools and childcare facilities throughout the Rocky Mountains and Great Plains states,” said Sopkin. “EPA, HUD, and our federal partners are committed to securing safer and healthier communities through the Federal Lead Action Plan.”

The impact of lead dust on children’s health was a significant factor in the new standards, officials said.

“We know that eliminating lead in housing improves health and education outcomes for children in our communities,” said Lim. “The new lead standards announced today continue our progress in helping more families live in lead-free homes by warranting earlier intervention which in turn saves health care costs.”

Lead-contaminated dust from chipped or peeling lead-based paint is one of the most common causes of elevated blood lead levels in children, research suggests. Infants and children are especially vulnerable to lead paint exposure because their growing bodies absorb more lead than adults do, while their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to damaging effects. Lead dust can be generated when lead-based paint deteriorates or is disturbed, and children can be exposed from multiple sources, potentially causing irreversible and life-long health effects.

“Every family in our city deserves to live in a home that is safe and healthy. No one should have to worry about their children breathing lead-contaminated dust or soil,” said Robert McDonald, executive director and the Public Health Administrator of the Denver Department of Public Health and the Environment.

To read EPA’s final rule CLICK HERE.

Learn more about EPA’s lead-based paint program by visiting: https://www.epa.gov/lead

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