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Contractors must meet lead paint regulations

May 11, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Thinking about a home-remodeling project and your house may have lead paint? Due to a new regulation, contractors who remove lead paint must be trained, certified and follow certain practices. If they don't, they could expose your family to harmful levels of lead dust.Five years ago Tamara Rubin got devastating news: She says blood tests showed her sons, A.J. and Avi, were suffering from lead poisoning, and that a contractor who removed the lead paint from the outside of her house exposed the boys to lead paint fumes and dust and did not take safety precautions.

"We were horrified because we thought we had hired a painter that was doing the right thing," said Rubin.

She says her boys still suffer from immune-related disorders, learning disabilities and, she fears, permanent brain damage.

"I don't know what their future is going to be like," said Rubin.

Now the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency just started requiring home remodeling contractors be safety-certified if they remove, scrape, sand or even "alter" lead paint in a home where someone is pregnant or there are kids under the age of 6. This means the contractor is specially trained to remove lead paint without exposing dangerous dust particles and housing. Experts say this is crucial.

"These regulations are absolutely critical for the health of children nationwide. They will protect more than a million children just in the first year alone," said Rebecca Morley, executive director, Center for Healthy Housing.

The problem is an investigation found some contractors aren't playing by the new rules. Several undercover calls were made to more than a dozen painters across the country telling them they were homeowners who had lead paint and children under 6. Not one contractor brought up the new requirements. And when specifically asked if they were certified under the new EPA regulations, they said: "There's no certification for it." "You aren't required to be licensed." "Huh? I'd have to look into that." "I don't know anything about that."

"It's alarming that so many contractors are unaware of the new requirements," said Morley.

How do you know if your home has lead paint? If it was built before 1978, the year lead paint was outlawed in the U.S., there's a high likelihood it does.

Tamara Rubin says her children will have lifelong problems as a result of the lead paint poisoning and urges other parents to run the new check on their painters.

"It will ruin your life," said Rubin.

If a contractor only paints over the lead paint, the certification is not required. If you are working on your own home, you also don't have to be certified. But the EPA urges you to follow their new guidelines.


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