Unavailability of Inexpensive Test Kits Pushes Cost of EPA Lead Paint Rule Higher

From Nations’ Building News

A new NAHB economic analysis of the costs associated with the Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting rule shows why the rule — intended to protect young children from the significant hazards of lead paint exposure — is even more likely to backfire.

The NAHB findings — which are included in new comments from the association filed on Aug. 6 on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed clearance testing rule — follows an announcement by the agency that more accurate, inexpensive lead paint test kits will not be available anytime soon. The kits were expected to be ready by next month and were seen as key to keeping the lead paint rule affordable for home owners.

NAHB is also looking at the revised lead hazard standard that the EPA is now preparing for residential buildings and the new lead hazard standard for commercial and public buildings.

The agency has formed a Science Advisory Board to review proposals for the standard. To determine whether any members of this board may have a conflict of interest or may not be impartial, NAHB has made a Freedom of Information request to the EPA for records, correspondence and other paperwork of the advisory staff.

$2 Billion Out the Window

The new lead paint rule is expected to have a significant impact on the nation’s remodeling market, with repercussions for jobs, wages and tax revenue. 

For example, NAHB Economics found that the cost of the lead-safe work practices and third-party lead-paint testing just for window replacements — a common renovation project — in all pre-1978 homes would result in:

  • A reduction of $1.9 billion spent on window replacements performed by professional contractors
  • A reduction of $1.0 billion in wages and salaries earned across all industries
  • 21,226 fewer jobs
  • A reduction of $579 million in revenue for federal, state and local governments

“This is a classic case of good intentions resulting in unintended consequences,” said NAHB Remodelers Chair Donna Shirey, a remodeler in Issaquah, Wash.

“We’ll have more and more consumers who understandably balk at the higher costs of hiring an EPA-certified renovator and either do the work themselves or don’t do it at all, even if their homes have lead paint. I think the public health consequences could be quite significant,” she said.

The EPA’s economic analysis found that the cost of the work practices would be about $35 per job, averaging the costs of all jobs with those in which lead-safe work practices would be required and assuming the availability of an accurate, off-the-shelf kit that could check for the presence of lead paint for about $2 per test.

With the tests unavailable, consumers are left with more expensive methods to check for lead. Otherwise, the remodeler must assume that lead is present — even in homes built between 1960 and 1978, only 25% of which contain lead paint according to government estimates.

“That means that 75% of those consumers will have to pay for the rule, yet they get no benefit,” Shirey pointed out.

Rules for Remodelers

The lead rule requires remodelers, window installers and other contractors who work in housing and child-occupied facilities built before 1978 to use lead-safe work practices unless those homes are tested and found free of any lead paint.

Renovations in homes built before 1978 that affect painted surfaces measuring at least 6 square feet (or 20 square feet outside) must be managed by a certified renovator who has completed EPA-approved training and is employed by an EPA-certified firm.

Certified renovators complete EPA-approved training and submit a form and $300 to the EPA to become a certified firm. The certified renovator must then follow work practices stipulated in the rule, including containing and controlling the dust, cleaning up after the work, using a wet wipe to confirm the cleaning and maintaining careful records of each job for at least three years.

All renovators must provide their customers with the EPA’s “Renovate Right” brochure before starting work in pre-1978 housing.  

Clearance Testing Update

The lack of a reliable, inexpensive test kit means that the economic assumptions that EPA has made in subsequent rulemakings — including the upcoming clearance testing requirement — must be rethought.

“NAHB fully expects that the EPA will issue a revised cost estimate for lead-safe work practices and take steps to raise consumer awareness of this issue,” Shirey said.

In its Aug. 6 comments, besides pointing out the increased cost for window replacement, NAHB clarified and expanded its earlier comments on dust-wipe sampling procedures, the physical condition of tested surfaces and the agency’s proposal to allow certified renovators to collect paint chip samples prior to remodeling.

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4 responses to “Unavailability of Inexpensive Test Kits Pushes Cost of EPA Lead Paint Rule Higher

  1. rianatleadcheck

    Our tests are available everywhere. Home Depot, Sherwin Williams, and Lowes are just some of the places where you can buy them. We also sell direct and have a lead time of one business day(1-800-262-5323). The availability for our test kits could not be better at the current moment.

    The LeadCheck® Swab is the only EPA-recognized test kit in the country. We have been in the business of protecting families and contractors from the dangers of lead-exposure for over 23 years. The swabs are inexpensive, easy to use, reliable, and above all accurate. Our test kits were given rave reviews in an independent study done by the National Institute of Science and Technology. They have been featured on Oprah, Dr. Oz, This Old House, and in prominent news publications including Newsweek Magazine, USA Today, The New York Times, and The Boston Globe.

    We are now playing a huge role in RRP Compliance since all contractors must now check all houses built before 1978 for lead.

    Please visit: http://www.leadcheck.com for more information.

    Or if you are a contractor looking for updates on the RRP Rule or EPA Compliance, visit our blog: http://www.leadcheck.com/blog

  2. Will Manning

    Thank you for the article. We also have a lot of resources including EPA RRP FAQs available at http://www.zipwall.com/epa.php and http://www.zipwall.com//lp/EPAFAQ.html.
    You can also learn about our dust barrier systems that help contractors to comply with the RRP Lead Regulation at http://www.zipwall.com/

  3. Great article about lead paint testing kits. We attended the class at one of the locations on the EPA Lead Training website (http://www.epaleadtraining.com) epaleadtraining.com.

    I hope it helps you as it did us. Once it was said and done, I’m glad we went through the class as we learned new practices for our jobs.

  4. The EPA publishes recommendations in “Renovate Right”, seen on their website. To discover out if your residence has lead dependent paint you can use a test kit seen at your local hardware shop.

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