A new EPA rule, set to go into effect in April 2010, will mandate that contractors renovating older U.S. homes must take special precautions for lead abatement.
The goal is to reduce the exposure of children to toxic lead, since it is well established that young ones are the most vulnerable to the heavy metal, reports the Los Angeles Times and other papers. Not only does lead impair brain development, but children are most likely to ingest sizable quantities since they are closer to the floor, and constantly put things in their mouths.
Long cited as one of the most significant threats to children's health, lead paint lingering in older homes has been a major target of regulators and advocates. The NAACP has attacked the problem as something that disproportionately affects minorities and those with low incomes.
Some physicians have already criticized the EPA for taking years to get to this point, and for setting the start date a ways in the future. Others worry that the long-awaited rule may still prove inadequate to protect those living in the estimated 38 million homes that still contain old lead paint.
The EPA rule will cover all pre-1978 houses, apartments, child-care facilities and schools occupied by children under 6 or pregnant women. Builders will have to be certified in lead abatement procedures. They won't be able to use sandblasters, torches or other tools that kick up lead dust, and they must post warning signs, keep residents out of affected areas and clean up debris.
The building industry, already struggling in the wake of a weak housing market, has complained that the rules will cost them money, and may encourage unsafe diy projects or illegal contractors. The EPA has estimated home renovation costs will rise by $500 million per year as a result, but that society will save as much as $5 billion a year in children's health and education costs.
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