The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

April 20, 2010

Contractors worry about EPA rules for older buildings

By Emily Younker
Globe Staff Writer

JOPLIN, Mo- — Local contractors on Monday told U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., that a new federal regulation could be ruinous for their industry.

The regulation, designed to reduce the risk of lead poisoning in children, will require contractors doing work in pre-1978 housing and other “child-occupied” buildings to be trained and certified by the Environmental Protection Agency for prevention of lead contamination. Child-occupied buildings are defined as residential, public or commercial buildings where children under 6 are regularly present, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The rule applies to renovation, repair and painting. Work in places where less than six square feet of lead-based paint in a room is disturbed — excluding window replacement — is exempt, according to the agency.

The rule is scheduled to go into effect on Thursday.

Crystal Harrington, executive director of the Home Builders Association of Southwest Missouri, said she doesn’t think there is a problem with the concept of the rule, but in its execution.

“There isn’t a contractor in this room who doesn’t want to caretake the safety of the public,” she said during the meeting with Blunt at Columbia Traders in downtown Joplin. “Our feeling, I think, is we don’t need the federal government telling us to do this. ... This is definitely about our freedom to do it in the way we need to do it.”

Blunt told the group that he recently wrote a letter to the EPA asking the agency to postpone the date the rule takes effect.

Several contractors said the rule will drive up costs to cover items such as lead-testing kits and extra labor, possibly driving customers to contractors who aren’t certified.

John Clayton, of Bolivar Insulation in Joplin, said the cost of labor for window jobs would double because of the extra steps workers would need to take to comply with the rules.

“That’ll be a turnoff to most people,” he said.

Other contractors said the certification training class they completed failed to answer all of their questions. Tom Mayberry, of Mayberry Construction Inc. in Joplin, said his instructor demonstrated the proper way to scrape lead-based paint off a ceiling to contain dust. But the instructor didn’t show him how to minimize and contain dust clouds that are nearly inevitable when a wall or ceiling are torn down, Mayberry said.

“I’ve got a great concern,” Mayberry said. “It doesn’t seem to be a real application (of the rule).”

According to the EPA, children are most likely to be exposed to lead-based paint hazards through house dust, which is created during normal paint wear. Adults and children risk exposure to lead-based paint dust through inhalation and hand-to-mouth activities.

Studies have consistently associated lead exposure with effects such as increased blood pressure or hypertension, according to the EPA. Some studies have linked lead exposure with negative effects on the body’s nervous system, and with IQ and behavior patterns in children, the EPA reports.

Lead paint

Lead is a bluish metallic chemical element mined from rock. Through the 1940s, paint manufacturers frequently used lead in house paints, though usage decreased through the 1960s as titanium dioxide replaced lead and as latex paints became available.

Source: Environmental Protection Agency