Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Lead Paint Removal: A National Disgrace?

frustrated at my desk 400 clr 8478There are plenty of regulations and laws that proscribe the use and removal of lead paints. Changes to the laws have occurred since 1970 when lead's use in paint concluded. After nearly a half-century, millions of homes throughout America still contain dangerous levels of lead from paint. The reasons are numerous and in 1998, the EPA issued a memorandum, hoping it would serve to expedite the removal of lead from residential housing.


By reclassifying lead paint debris, excluding it from RCRA Subtitle C hazardous waste regulations, the EPA's belief was that, "[it] will facilitate additional residential abatement, renovation and remodeling, and rehabilitation activities, thus protecting children from continued exposure to lead paint in homes ... making lead paint homes safe for children," as issued by Elizabeth A. Cotsworth, Director Office of Solid Waste. In that same memo,"[t]he reclassification made lead paint debris generated by contractors in households ... 'household waste'."


It was plan that balanced cost against danger. But did it work? 


Almost twenty years later, according to HUD, "[b]ased on the survey results, it is estimated that 37.1 million homes (34.9%) have lead-based paint (LBP) somewhere in the building, of which 23.2 million (21.9% of all homes) have one or more lead-based paint hazards. Of homes with lead-based paint, 34.4 million (93%) were built before 1978." That may sound like a tremendous number. Exposing so many people and their children to the highly dangerous lead-based paint (LBP) continues as a deeply serious issue, subjecting them to a multitude of serious, possibly permanent, health challenges.


Yet, in 1970, with the banning of LBP, there were approximately 64 million homes affected. It seems that since that time, approximately half the homes have eliminated LBP.


The question now turns on whether the EPA should continue the policy. Lowering costs of remediation, which were and are prohibitive, especially since most of these homes are in poor areas, may have reached its effective point. After all, in two decades more than thirty million homes continue to expose families to danger.


The solution would not be simple. It may pose a greater cost. Yet, we live in a society where the nation organizes to secure and render aid to large regions when storms, earthquakes and other events wreak havoc on the residents and their property. With this perspective, given the health risk to people who occupy these homes, perhaps a similar approach might prove successful.


The answer is no longer to do nothing or pretend that an old statue that has outlived its effectiveness are sufficient. It is now reaching a point where the failure to act looks much like a national disgrace moving in slow motion.


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