|The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
standards establishing dangerous levels of lead in dust, paint, and soil
took effect in March 2001.
This EPA rulemaking filled a gaping void by establishing
the first national standards for lead in the residential environment,
specifically lead hazards in deteriorated paint, settled dust
on floors and window sills, and soil. These standards govern
all properties receiving federal assistance as well as activities
by certified lead services providers. While these EPA standards
do not mandate action to either identify or control lead hazards
in private housing, they provide a clear yardstick to guide
responsible action by state and local health departments,
property owners, remodeling and painting contractors, lenders,
insurers, and others.
The final national standards reflect the results of research and real-world
experience over recent years and promise to prove both workable and protective.
Among other things, the standards set the stage for expanded environmental
sampling of hazardous properties in distressed communities to target attention
and resources to protecting children at highest risk. Key elements of
these standards are highlighted below:
Dust-lead hazard – 40 µg/square foot on floors and 250 µg/square
foot on window sills. The floor standard applies to carpeted surfaces
as well as bare floors. After work has been performed on windows, a window
trough clearance standard of 400 µg/square foot applies. While some
scientists strongly believe that a lower floor dust standard is needed,
the floor dust lead hazard standard established is substantially more
protective than EPA’s previous guideline (100 µg/square foot).
Soil-lead hazard – 400 parts per million (ppm) for
bare soil in play areas and 1,200 ppm average in the rest
of the yard.
Paint-lead hazard – Any of the following conditions constitutes
a paint lead hazard: 1) lead-based paint on friction surfaces that are
subject to abrasion where dust lead hazards are present, 2) lead-based
paint on impact surfaces that are damaged or deteriorated, 3) any chewable
lead-based painted surface on which there is evidence of teeth marks,
and 4) any other deteriorated lead-based paint. Work practice standards
do not apply when treating lead-based paint hazards that are less than
two square feet per room, 20 square feet on the exterior building, and
10 percent of a component’s total surface area.
Work practice standards – This EPA rulemaking also
made a number of conforming changes in work practice standards
for conducting lead-based paint activities in target housing
(40 CFR Part 745.227).
On June 7, 2002, the United States Court of Appeals for the
D.C. Circuit upheld these standards in spite of a challenge
from housing trade associations, arguing that EPA lacked authority
to regulate lead levels in dust and soil, unless the source
of the lead is paint. EPA contended that it has the power
to set standards for lead-contaminated dust and soil, regardless
of the source. In challenging the rule, the trade associations
sought to limit property owners' duty under Title X to disclose
known lead hazards when selling or renting pre-1978 housing.
They argued that they should not be required to disclose dust
and soil hazards of unknown source, while at the same time
conceding that no technology exists to determine the source
of lead contamination in dust and soil.
This ruling by the Court of Appeals clarified the duty of residential
property owners to disclose known lead hazards when they sell or rent
pre-1978 housing. The EPA standards also govern properties receiving federal
assistance and serve as a benchmark to guide responsible action for making
U.S. housing lead-safe.