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Community and Q&A

What have you heard about the EPA renovation, repair & painting rule going into effect this month?

GBA Editor | Posted in General Questions on

Does this mean that if I own a house or I am a contractor renovating a home built before 1978 I must be certified to do the work or I will be fined huge amounts of money? Do you know anyone who is certified? I know that it is important to do the work properly but it seems like a nightmare of red tape. Just more government in our lives where people are already struggling to survive.

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  1. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #1

    There's plenty of information available on the Web; you might start here:

    1. Yes, if you are a remodeler, painter, electrician or plumber who wants to work in pre-1978 homes, you need to be certified. That requires 8 hours of training for at least one person in each remodeling company.
    2. No, it's not a nightmare. The regulations are designed to protect the health of children -- something that green builders should support.

  2. Riversong | | #2

    It may not be a full-fledged nightmare, but it's certainly a bad dream for the sole proprietor or small remodeling company.

    Not only must at least one person in each remodeling business have the 8-hour certification training, but that person must document the training of all other employees or workers in the company, the company must also register ($300) with EPA as a certified firm, each certification must be renewed (with refresher training) every five years, prior written notice (pamphlet) must be delivered (with documentation of delivery) to every unit in the building, rather strict work area containment is required with warning signs, power tools and heat guns are strictly limited, double or triple cleanup with visual and wet pad inspection at completion, all demolition materials must be bagged and sealed and isolated, and final cleaning verification protocols followed with notice to occupants. A certified HEPA vacuum cleaner is required along with double tub mop system, wet wipes, lead test swabs, Tyvek suit, booties, plastic gloves and a HEPA half-face mask must be worn. Tack pads are required outside the work area.

    All renovators and painters, including mechanical subcontractors must be certified and carry documentation at all times. The certified worker for each contracting firm must be on site for initial containment and end-of-job cleanup and verification, and a GC must have copies of certifications for all subcontractors. If a home-owner desires, a fully certified Lead Inspection professional must be hired for initial and/or follow-up testing.

    All floors, furniture, vents, doors and windows - either inside or out - must be sealed with 6 mil plastic and tape (double plastic on all doors and also on floors when paint stripper is used). Outside, the plastic must extend 10' beyond the work area in all directions, with a 20' buffer zone marked with cones, signs (in the native language of occupants) and caution tape to keep non-trained workers and others away. Working at heights above one storey requires additional extension of plastic equal to the height of the work. No outdoor work is allowed on a windy day.

    Penalties for non-compliance can be as much as $32,500 per violation in addition to jail time for willful violation.

    But, other than that, it's a piece of cake.

  3. Maria Hars | | #3

    How are they going to police it? Robert thank you for letting us know how easy it is. Lol!!! Chaos more like it and yes small firms and sole proprietors will suffer we always do. The homeowner will pay the consequences-as he or she struggles to make ends meet. We need to pass on our costs to them. $300 might not seem like a lot of money, and 8 hrs of training doesn't seem bad, Realtors need 12 hrs of continuing education every 2 years. But what does bother me is the regulations for compliance and the huge fines for non-compliance. Who wrote these very detailed procedures? Someone from the field who understands construction? Or lawyers who have no experience in construction?

    It's ironic; before 1978 the government allowed lead in paint and other chemicals in housing and even to this day hazardous building and finishing materials are in our homes. Hmmmm....

    The comment: This is to protect the health of our children grates on me. We are endangering their health as we speak! The houses built after 1978 are filled with toxic chemicals from cleaning products, carpets, fabrics, plywood, paints, stains, vinly flooring, plastics, furniture. These super energy efficient homes are so tight that indoor air pollution is rampant. live in today. Our homes are killing us.

    Probably 75% of US population including myself grew up in homes built before 1978. And the majority of us are healthy. For 1000's of years man has lived in dwellings and have survived. Yes there are children who suffer from lead paint poisoning, but who is at fault? You mean to tell me that all these laws are going to make it safer for our planet? Where is all this contamination going? The landfill? And in a few years these landfills will be built upon. Yes that is logical. That settles it, new green construction hands down. This is not about children this is about money plain and simple.

    We don't need more regulations we need common sense.

  4. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #4

    Every year, about 250,000 children in the U.S. are diagnosed with elevated blood lead levels, which can lead to cognitive impairments. A major source of the lead dust that poisons these children is generated by remodeling activities.

    The fact is, decades of education have not significantly changed contractor practices. Lead-safe work practices protect children from the dangers of lead dust -- and also protect contractors, who will be less likely to unknowingly cause a case of poisoning.

    Containing dust and careful cleanup are good practices. Yes, it's a little more expensive to do remodeling work in a safe way. The alternative, of course, is to do the work cheaply (and in a more dangerous manner).

    Those of us who advocate green building practices should be out in front of the pack of contractors -- explaining why our companies work safely, protecting children by avoiding the generation and spread of toxic dust. That will help differentiate our companies from less conscientious competitors.

    There's a lot of loose talk about "toxic" materials among half-educated builders. This is toxic, that is toxic — almost everything is called toxic these days. Let's not ridicule those concerned about lead paint dust. You want to know why we should care? Because lead paint dust really IS toxic -- no joke.

  5. Daniel Morrison | | #5

    GBA is in the process of developing a comprehensive guide to this new regulation. Please takse our short survey, here: to help us make sure we cover all of your concerns.

    Also, Fine Homebuilding is running a Q&A with the EPA over in their blog section, here:


  6. Maria Hars | | #6

    Yes I understand that. According to the EPA, 250,000 children age 1-5 have been diagnosed with elevated levels of lead that is 6.4%, meaning 93.6% of children ages 1-5 do not have these increased levels. Lead is in products including toys and other products (drywall) imported from China and other countries.

    Indoor air pollutants are a silent threat. There is a growing concern about the harmful effects of formaldehyde vapors, VOC's, HAPS, and heavy metals. These are harmful irritants and are found in many solvent based finishing materials.

    I never said it was a joke. However, statistics can be skewed and knowing exactly where the lead poinsoning came from is not clear. I believe in doing the right thing my morals and ethics dictate that to me. What I am questioning is how it will be policed? How will they know who is not in compliance? What exactly does non-compliance mean? Will all these regulations work to reduce lead paint levels in children & adults?

  7. Riversong | | #7

    There's a lot of loose talk about "toxic" materials among half-educated builders.

    Martin, much of that "loose talk" on this forum has come from me, but I'm hardly "half-educated". In fact, I've repeatedly caught you making uninformed rebuttals, and each time I've posted authoritative sources to support my contentions, you've failed to either acknowledge them or respond.

    The fact that lead can be biologically toxic does not necessarily require extreme federal regulation and penalties. And the federal government is very selective at which toxins it chooses to regulate.

    Mercury, for instance, is a much more powerful neurotoxin than lead, with decades of peer-reviewed studies showing strong correlations to chronic illnesses, autoimmune disorders, neurodegenerative diseases, birth defects, oral lesions, and mental disorders. The original American dental association banned mercury amalgam fillings and Denmark, Norway and Sweden banned them in 2008. Yet the ADA insists that they're safe and the FDA supports them, in spite of clear evidence presented by the World Health Organization of its toxicity with dental amalgam being the primary exposure route.

    What we need is greater awareness of the toxicity of most of the materials in our homes and possessions, and greater responsibility on the part of designers, builders, and home owners.

    What we don't need are pundits, such as yourself, dismissing informed and concerned professionals as "half-educated", particularly when they've demonstrated a much higher level of awareness of these issues than have you.

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