Following the discovery that some contractors hired by Lowe’s Home Centers to renovate homes had violated federal regulations regarding lead dust, the company has agreed to a corporate-wide compliance program at its 1,700+ stores.
The settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice and the EPA will ensure that the contractors Lowes hires to perform work minimize lead dust from home renovation activities, as required by the federal Lead Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP) Rule.
Health hazards of lead dust
The RRP and other lead rules are intended to protect children and others who are vulnerable to exposure to lead dust that can cause lead poisoning. Lead-based paint was banned in 1978 but still remains in many homes and apartments across the country. Lead dust hazards can occur when lead paint deteriorates or is disrupted during home renovation and remodeling activities. Lead exposure can cause a range of health problems, from behavioral disorders and learning disabilities to seizures and death, putting young children at the greatest risk because their nervous systems are still developing.
“Today’s settlement sends a clear message to all contractors and the firms they hire: Get lead certified and comply with the law to protect children from exposure to dangerous lead dust,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.
Largest RRP penalty ever
Lowes will also pay a $500,000 civil penalty, which is the largest ever for violations of the RRP Rule.
EPA inspectors found violations of the RRP Rule’s recordkeeping and work practice standards at private homes that had been renovated by Lowe’s contractors through a review of records from projects performed by renovators working under contract for the Lowe’s stores in nine states.
The government complaint alleged that Lowe’s failed to provide documentation showing that specific contractors had been certified by EPA, had been properly trained, had used lead-safe work practices, or had correctly used EPA-approved lead test kits at renovation sites. Additionally, EPA’s investigation found that Lowe’s had also failed to ensure that work areas had been properly contained and cleaned during renovations at three homes. EPA’s investigation was prompted by tips and complaints submitted by the public.
Lowe's must use EPA-certified renovators
Lowe’s must implement a comprehensive compliance program to ensure that the contractors it hires to perform work for its customers comply with the RRP Rule during renovations of any child-occupied facilities, such as day-care centers and pre-schools, and any housing that was built before 1978. For these projects, Lowe’s must contract with only EPA-certified renovators, ensure they maintain certification, and ensure they use lead safe work practices checklists during renovations. In addition, Lowe’s must suspend anyone that is not operating in compliance with the rule, investigate all reports of potential noncompliance, and ensure that any violations are corrected.
The RRP Rule, which implements the federal Toxic Substances Control Act, is intended to ensure that owners and occupants of housing built before 1978, as well as any child-occupied facilities, receive information on lead-based paint hazards before renovations begin, that individuals performing such renovations are properly trained and certified by EPA, and follow specific work practices to reduce the potential for lead-based paint exposure. Home improvement companies such as Lowe’s that contract with renovators to perform renovation work for their customers must ensure that those contractors comply with all of the requirements of the RRP Rule.