EPA moves to reduce childhood exposure to lead-based paint dust
Jul 12, 2023, 12:25 PM
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration on Wednesday moved to reduce children’s exposure to lead, proposing stricter limits on dust from lead-based paint in older homes and child-care facilities.
Declaring that “there is no safe level of lead,” the administration estimates that the proposed rule would reduce lead exposure for approximately 250,000 to 500,000 children under the age of six each year.
That’s important because health scientists have said for some time there is no safe level of lead in a child’s blood. Lead’s damage to the brain is well known: It takes points off IQ, deprives kids of problem-solving abilities, and can make it harder to learn to read. But it also affects other organs, including the liver and kidneys.
“This proposal to safely remove lead paint along with our other efforts to deliver clean drinking water and replace lead pipes will go a long way toward protecting the health of our next generation of leaders,” Janet McCabe, deputy director of the Environmental Protection Agency, said in New Jersey, where the proposal was announced.
Paint that contains lead was banned in 1978, but because paint is applied in layers and then chips off or is sanded off during remodeling, more than 30 million American homes are believed to still contain it.
The proposed rule targets levels of lead dust. Currently 10 micrograms per square foot is considered hazardous on floors, and a concentration 10 times that high is considered hazardous on window sills. The new rule brings both of those down to no detectable lead.
Apart from what constitutes a hazard, the proposed rule would reduce what’s allowed when a lead contractor, often called a lead abatement contractor, finishes work on a property where lead has been a problem. These levels would be 3 micrograms per square foot on the floor and 20 micrograms per square foot for sills.
The regulation is part of the Toxic Substances Control Act.
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