Monday, November 20, 2006

The RRP: Where are We Now?

You may recall that the EPA proposed a new regulation on lead for the remodeling industry in January of 2006 called the Renovation, Repair and Painting Program. This proposed rule is commonly being referred to as the RRP. Generally speaking it contains mandated work practices and requires certification of workers and companies that disturb more than two-square feet of painted surfaces in target-housing -- houses built before 1978 that might contain lead-based paint. This rule is moving forward. So, where are we now?

Members of the NAHB Lead-Based Paint Task Force (LBPTF) met with EPA in November of 2006 to discuss this rule and present the results of a study looking at lead-dust generation commissioned by the NAHB. These discussions did not reveal EPA’s intentions on when they plan to enact this proposed rule or what the requirements of the final rule will be, but Jim Gulliford, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's assistant administrator for prevention, pesticides and toxic substances, did assert, ”The EPA wants an effective and efficient rule.” Hopefully, the results of the NAHB study will have a positive effect on what the final RRP looks like.

The NAHB conducted a study titled, "“Lead Safe Work Practices Project Survey Report,” which established that houses have less of a lead-dust hazard after remodeling than before, with only one exception. That exception is if a worker performs what the study identifies as ‘uncontrolled sanding’ or sanding using a power tool without supplemental or an integrated dust collection system, i.e. vacuum attachment. Lead-dust levels where lower in nine of the eleven activities measured by the study. The two activities that showed an increase in lead-dust were those where ‘uncontrolled sanding’ took place.

As a result of the lead study, the NAHB has made recommendations of what activities remodelers should not to do on remodeling projects. These recommendations follow right along with the list of prohibited practices established by HUD in 2000: no powered sanding or grinding without an attached HEPA filtered vacuum attachment, no open flame burning, no abrasive blasting or sandblasting, no use of heat guns that operate above 1100-degrees Fahrenheit, no use of volatile paint strippers and lastly no dry sanding or scraping. It is further suggested to incorporate the EPA’s suggested good work practices during remodeling on your projects. This list can be found at:

If you are a typical remodeler, you do not perform most of these activities. You may be saying to yourself, “Well if the study shows typical remodeling activities do not create more of a lead hazard and remodelers do not perform the types of activities that do, why do we need the RRP?” The answer is simple: lead is harmful and children all across the nation are still poisoned each year by it. This is why the EPA is adamant that such a rule is enacted and why remodelers must prepare themselves for the day this rule goes into affect. Additionally, the EPA is getting appreciable pressure from a group of congressman lead by Senator Barack Obama (D) from Illinois to release the RRP. The EPA has more than a few issues to work through to make an effective and efficient regulation over and above political pressure.

First, the NAHB study shows that typical remodeling activities do not create a lead hazard. The stated goal of the RRP is to ensure that lead hazards are not created and left behind on remodeling projects. Thus, looking at the results of the NAHB study a logical question is, “Do we need the RRP?” Second, the RRP does not address over half of the remodeling activities done in this county by the do-it-yourselfer. This issue is something the EPA will need to take a serious look at if it is committed to eliminating child lead-poisoning. And third, the EPA will need to analyze its own recently commissioned study. The results of which are not expected until early 2007.

So hold to your hats for the dust storm of the RRP is brewing in DC. The wheels are in motion on the RRP and the EPA will enact this rule sometime in the future. The LBPTF will stay vigilant that the EPA does not promulgate an onerous regulation upon the remodeling industry. A restrictive regulation would increase the cost of remodeling and provide an incentive for homeowners to do more of their own work or hire less professional contractors. This in turn could lead to the possibility of even more children getting lead-poisoned -- the exact issue the EPA is attempting to eliminate.

The best guess is that the final rule will not be published until at least 2008. Stay tuned for further updates…