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Owners, developers and builders working in the renovation arena should note that the EPA’s new regulations on lead paint took effect on April 22, 2010. The regulations are contained in Title 40, Part 745 of the Code of Federal Regulations. The importance of this legislation and its impact on contractors is clear, however, it should be noted, that it is anticipated that preparation and cleanup alone may double the work time and the costs of extra time on projects and training required may be passed on to the consumer.

Lead’s hazards for children have been well-documented for decades. Once lead is inhaled as dust or ingested in chips of peeling paint, the neurological damage is severe and irreversible, affecting a child’s behavior and a child’s ability to learn and acquire speech skills. It’s estimated that 1 million children are affected by lead poisoning each year, mainly from lead-based paint that was used decades ago and has since been outlawed. In adults, lead poisoning can lead to reproductive and kidney problems, among other illness.

New Jersey and many other states have rules for safely removing lead, but the new federal rule goes further. For any construction that disturbs lead-based paint in homes, schools and child-care facilities built before 1978, the contractor must follow specific practices to prevent contamination – including protective uniforms for workers and plastic sheeting for exposed surfaces. At least one person on the job must be trained and EPA-certified. The goal is simple: Contain the site, minimize dust, cleanup afterwards.

Here are some of the important highlights:

1. Effective April 21, 2010, no contractor may offer to perform renovations in “target housing” without certification. Target housing means any housing constructed prior to 1978, so renovators working in homes, apartments or condominiums built prior to 1978 need to take this seriously.

2. Contractors performing renovations have extensive obligations to give disclosure and notice to building occupants in writing prior to renovation, including providing EPA publications. Persons and contractors performing work in this arena must provide their customers the EPA’s brochure, Renovate Right.

3. The regulations further include specific work practice standards, so watch out for potential employee personal injury claims and OSHA inspections and violations as well.

4. Even relatively minor work is swept up in the requirements: generally work disrupting more than 6 square feet of painted area is regulated.

5. When working with possible lead issues, workers will need to place heavy plastic sheets on the ground, seal the room, seal off vents to the area where the project is taking place, remove or cover furniture in the area, cover the ground and plants outside of the work area, close all windows, and mark off the work area to keep non-workers away. Contractors will be required to post warning signs, restrict occupants from work areas, prevent dust and debris from spreading, conduct a thorough cleanup and verify that the cleanup was effective.

6. The only exceptions to the requirements:

a. home or child occupied facility built after 1978

b. repairs are minor, with interior work disturbing less than 6 sq. feet or exteriors disturbing less
    than 20 sq. ft.

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