To better protect children from its several negative effects, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed stricter requirements for lead-based paints in pre-1978 buildings and childcare facilities.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed stricter requirements regarding the removal of lead-based paints in childcare facilities and pre-1978 buildings (abatement activities) to better protect children from lead exposure, the agency stated in a press release.
The proposal from the Biden-Harris administration is estimated to reduce lead exposures for 250,000 to 500,000 children younger than 6 years, per year, if finalized. The EPA’s regulations, under section 402 of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), would be strengthened by revision of the dust-lead hazard standards (DLHS) and the dust-lead clearance levels (DLCL). After lead removal activities, DLCL levels are the amount of lead that can remain in dust from windowsills, window troughs, and floors.
According to the EPA, the proposal would reduce DLHS (identifies lead in floor and windowsill dust) from 10 micrograms per square foot (µg/ft2) for floors and 100 µg/ft2 for windowsills to “any reportable level greater than zero.” The reduction, according to the agency, recognizes that no level of lead in dust has been found to be safe for children. Proposed revisions would see a reduction in DLCL; from 10 µg/ft2 to 3 µg/ft2 for floors, from 400 µg/ft2 to 25 µg/ft2 for window troughs, and from 100 µg/ft2 to 20 µg/ft2 for windowsills. The EPA believes these reductions are the lowest post-abatement levels of dust lead that can be effectively and reliably achieved.
“The Biden-Harris Administration is taking a whole-of-government approach to ensuring that the most vulnerable among us—our children—are protected from exposure to lead,” said Janet McCabe, deputy administrator, EPA. “This proposal to safely remove lead paint along with our other efforts to deliver clean drinking water and replace lead pipes will go a long way toward protecting the health of our next generation of leaders. I am proud to stand alongside the City of Newark, New Jersey, and all our partners across the United States in our critical efforts to reduce childhood lead exposures.”
Government agencies, lead-based paint professionals, and property owners identify dust-lead hazard levels in childcare and residential facilities built before 1978 using the DLHS. The EPA’s Lead-Based Paint Activities Program states firms and individuals performing abatement must be certified and follow specified work practices. After an abatement, but before an abatement is considered complete, required testing is conducted to review dust lead levels to ensure they are under the DLCL. 2019 and 2021 were the last years the DLHS and DLCL were updated, respectively.
An estimated 31 million houses built before 1978 still contain lead-based paint, of which 3.8 million include 1 or more children under 6 years residing in them. Lead contaminated dust, which frequently occurs when lead-based paint is disturbed or deteriorated, is one of the most common reasons for elevated blood lead levels among children. Children are particularly at risk of higher ingestion exposure to lead-containing dust because of normal behaviors (crawling and hand-to-mouth activities). Behavioral problems, lower IQ, slowed growth, and other life-long health effects pose threats to children because of lead exposure.
Deteriorated lead-based paint is more likely to be discovered in lower-income areas, often putting “communities of color and those of lower socioeconomic status at [a] greater risk of lead exposure.” Communities of color can face greater risks because of historic racial segregation in housing and less access to affordable and environmentally safe housing.
Biden-Harris Administration proposes to strengthen lead paint standards to protect against childhood lead exposure. Press release. United States Environmental Protection Agency. July 12, 2023. Accessed July 13, 2023. https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/biden-harris-administration-proposes-strengthen-lead-paint-standards-protect-against