1978 was a very good year. It marks the appearance of the first cell phone (which was probably the size of a football), a pound of bacon cost just $1.20, and the country was enamored with a dancing-singing John Travolta. Most importantly, yours truly made her glorious debut into the world that year. It was also a good time for home owners. It was in 1978 that the government took your safety more seriously and banned the use of lead-based paint.
But what if your home was built prior to 1978? The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that 64 million dwellings in the United States currently contain lead-based products, so there’s a fair chance your pre-80s home is among them. As of this April, there are new regulations from the EPA concerning renovation, repair and painting work in your home – and you need to know about them.
The new rule, called the Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP), states that all renovation, repair and painting contractors who perform work for hire on pre-1978 structures are required to undergo training and certification in lead-safe work practices. Knowing how to work with lead-based products (especially the dust produced in the home improvement process) is crucial to protecting the health of the people and pets in the home from the very serious and real risk of lead poisoning.
Under the RRP, all contractors must complete training (which runs between $150 and $300), register with the EPA ($300) and adhere to the rules on the site. For most, this will mean additional material costs – from heavy-duty plastic sheets to HEPA vacuums. As you can guess, contractors will likely want to recover some of these costs, so don’t be surprised if you receive quotes that are higher than you would have last year. It is up to you as the homeowner to ask your potential contractor if they are certified. It is the law that they are, but you shouldn’t just presume they’re up to date with industry regulations (a much cheaper quote than everyone else may be a red flag).
Doing the work yourself? You’re not required by law to take the EPA’s RRP lead-based products course, but hopefully the concern you have for the health of yourself and your family is enough motivation to learn the basics. This pamphlet from the EPA is a great place to start.