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Private: News
18th May


What New Lead-Paint Law Means for Homeowners

A lot of our readers have said, given the choice, they prefer old homes to newly built models.

But what about the lead paint issue?

In today’s Wall Street Journal, I report on how professionals who repair or renovate homes and other buildings constructed before 1978 are now required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to adhere to strict lead-safe work practices.

Renovation activities that disturb lead-based paint can create hazardous lead dust and chips, which can lead to health problems such as nerve disorders, high-blood pressure and memory loss, the EPA says. The agency estimates that 87% of homes built before 1940 and 24% of homes built between 1960 and 1978 have some lead-based paint.

Some contractors, property-management firms and landlords who work on building renovations say they plan to pass the costs of complying with the ruling onto consumers. Those costs range from materials such as lead-testing kits, plastic sheeting and respirators to training and certification.

Homeowners aren’t covered in the ruling, but given the hazards of lead-paint poisoning, they may want to consider taking safety precautions anyway or at least check their properties for possible lead contamination. Of course, lead paint is something to look for and ask about when you’re buying an older home. Sal Alfano, editorial director of Remodeling, a monthly magazine, says he expects some homeowners to take on renovation projects themselves to avoid paying higher fees that professionals may charge.

Meanwhile, consumers who still plan to hire professional help for renovation projects on pre-1978 homes may want ensure that those folks are trained and certified in lead-safe work practices. The EPA offers a search tool on its website for locating certified renovation companies.

Contractors say it’s likely that some of their competitors will take the risk of violating the ruling in order to charge less. While failure to comply with the ruling could result in fines up to $37,500 a day, a spokesman for the EPA says the government agency’s only method of enforcement is to investigate tips and complaints to its hotline, 800-424-LEAD.

Homeowners should also note that some home-renovation workers may not yet be educated in lead-safe practices due to a shortage of instructors. Earlier this month, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), introduced a bill to delay the implementation of EPA’s lead rule until classes have been held in a state for at least one year.

Readers, if you own a home built prior to 1978, would you pay extra to protect against lead-paint poisoning when doing renovations or repairs?

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