EPA yesterday announced a series of steps to increase protections against and raise awareness of lead-based products in the environment and communities, particularly to prevent lead poisoning in children. The steps announced today are:

  • Additional proposed requirements to protect children from lead-based paint
  • A new effort to ban the manufacture of lead in tire weights
  • A lead poisoning prevention video contest, asking people to submit videos demonstrating steps that can be taken to prevent childhood lead poisoning

“As both EPA Administrator and as a mother, my highest priority is protecting our children from environmental threats in the places where they live, play and learn. Lead is still present in many of our neighborhoods, but we can limit exposure to children and adults by working together on comprehensive actions like these,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “We're committed to giving our nation’s children the fullest protection possible, and giving parents clear assurance that their children are safe from harm.”

The additional requirements on lead-based paint that EPA intends to propose are the result of a settlement of litigation brought by the Sierra Club, the New York City Coalition to End Lead Poisoning and other stakeholder groups in 2008. The settlement calls for proposed revisions to the 2008 rule governing lead safe work practices used during repair, remodeling and renovations to reduce exposures to lead-based paint hazards for young children, the most sensitive population, as well as for older children and adults.

EPA will propose to expand lead safe work practices and other protective requirements for renovation and painting work involving lead paint to most buildings built before 1978, when lead-based paint was banned for residential use. Under the proposed requirements, renovation firms would have to conduct tests to ensure that lead levels in dust comply with EPA’s regulatory standards after certain renovation, repair, and painting activities are performed and provide information to building occupants on the lead safe work practices utilized during renovations.

The agency is proposing that lead safe work practices be required at the vast majority of residential buildings and public and commercial buildings undergoing exterior renovations that involve lead-based paint. EPA will determine whether renovations in the interior of public and commercial buildings create hazardous levels of lead dust.

EPA will undertake at least three separate rulemakings to expand coverage and strengthen requirements of the 2008 Renovation, Repair and Painting rule, which will be available for public comment.

EPA will also pursue a ban on the manufacture and distribution of lead tire weights in response to a 2009 petition from the Ecology Center, the Sierra Club and other NGOs requesting that the agency establish regulations prohibiting the manufacture, processing, and distribution of lead tire weights. Lead weights are used predominately in the tire replacement market to balance tires of autos and light trucks in the United States. They can fall off tires and then break down and contaminate soil, wash into sewers, or end up being transported to municipal landfills or incinerators. EPA estimates that 2,000 tons of lead from tire weights are lost from vehicles and ultimately end up in the environment each year. Tire weights without lead are already being used and can be effectively substituted.

Finally, in order to further educate the public on the potential dangers of lead poisoning, EPA, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are soliciting creative videos from the public for a lead poisoning prevention video contest.

The three agencies are interested in videos that convey easy, low-cost steps that can be taken to prevent childhood lead poisoning and inspire individuals and communities to change their behavior to prevent exposure to this harmful chemical. Examples of possible video topics include:

  • Educating the public about the dangers of lead poisoning in children
  • Steps you can take to prevent children from lead dust poisoning if they spend time in older homes, schools, or child care settings
  • The importance of hiring a trained professional to conduct safe renovation, repair or painting work that involves lead-based paint
  • Simple safe work practices to follow when renovating a home with lead-based paint
  • The importance of getting your child tested for lead if you live in an older home.

The deadline for entries is October 1, 2009 12:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. The winners will be awarded cash prizes in the amount of $2,500 (1st prize), $1,500 (2nd prize) and $1,000 (3rd prize). Winning videos will be featured on EPA, CDC and HUD’s Web sites. Winners will be announced during Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, October 25-31, 2009.

Lead causes a variety of adverse health effects, including brain and nervous system disorders, high blood pressure and hypertension, and reproductive problems. For children, even low levels of exposure to lead can cause a host of developmental effects such as learning disabilities, decreased intelligence, and speech, language, and behavioral problems, which can impact children for a lifetime.

More information on today’s announcements:www.epa.gov/lead/