Lead Paint Law is a Good Thing, but is it Enough?

Angie Hicks
Written by Angie Hicks
Updated March 9, 2010
a man painting a bathroom
Stricter lead paint practices were enacted in 2010. (Angie's List photo)

Contractors who might disturb lead paint in structures built before 1978 will be required by a new EPA rule to be trained and certified in lead safety techniques.

Get quotes from up to 3 pros!
Enter a zip below and get matched to top-rated pros near you.

For years, Angie's List has been at the forefront of calling for better lead-safe practices — exposing unsafe industry methods, conducting a national tour to educate consumers and contractors, as well as denoting service providers on Angie's List who employ proper precautions.

I'm happy to say that beginning April 22, the Environmental Protection Agency will require any contractors who might disturb lead paint in homes, schools and child-care facilities built before 1978 to be trained and certified in proper lead safety techniques. This includes a new list of prohibited practices, including open-torch burning and high-heat guns, and using high-speed equipment — such as grinders and sanders — that don't contain a HEPA filter.

This is good news for homeowners and their families — and contractors and their families — who might be exposed to poisonous lead paint, which can cause irreversible brain and nervous system damage when ingested by young children. In adults, lead poisoning can lead to reproductive problems and nerve disorders among other issues.

Prior to the new rule, all contractors were required to do was give homeowners a pamphlet warning about the dangers of lead paint.

Still, I can't help but wonder if it's enough.

Currently, the new rule requires a cleaning verification upon completion of a renovation, which involves just a visual inspection, cleaning with a HEPA vacuum and conducting a wipe test. What we really should be expecting as homeowners is the more comprehensive clearance test, which involves collecting dust samples to be analyzed for lead content.

Also, reliable enforcement of the new law is still a ways off, so it's prudent that owners of older homes who begin a remodeling project not have a false sense of security and assume that the regulation is being enforced, and that their contractor is certified and will employ the new, safer methods. Complying with the rule will cost contractors more per job, which could entice less scrupulous contractors to skirt the regulation in order to offer lower prices.

While certification would mean an additional operating cost for contractors — the EPA estimates a range between $8 and $167 per job, on average — it's a charge homeowners should be willing to bear, provided they know about it in advance, as opposed to hiring unqualified contractors or working around lead paint themselves to save a few dollars. It's simply not worth the risk.

Good contractors who comply with the new rule should see an increase in business if educated homeowners avoid the unaccredited contractors. So, before you hire, ask your remodeler for a copy of his or her lead certification.

And to all the remodelers, painters and other contractors who work around lead paint, if you've been certified, contact our CompanyConnect department so we can alert members to your status as a Certified Renovator in lead safety.

Need professional help with your project?
Get quotes from top-rated pros.