Testimony to EPA in Support of Lead RRP and Abatement Regulations
On Monday, May 1, 2017, Dr. David Jacobs, Chief Scientist for NCHH and a representative of the National Safe and Healthy Housing Coalition, testified before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency about the potential dangers of weakening or terminating the existing lead renovation, repair, and painting (RRP) and abatement regulations. Three days later, Dr. Jacobs submitted this formal written testimony, reprinted below. This is one of a series of actions by NCHH and its allies to support continued (and increased) funding for the EPA’s lead poisoning prevention program. You can also read Dr. Jacobs’ blog, “Threats or Promises,” or the letters to EPA Administrator Pruitt and to Congress, for which we are collecting signatures through May 8. Sign here.
May 4, 2017
Office of Regulatory Policy and Management
Washington, DC 20460
The National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH) believes that elimination of funding for and so-called “reform” of EPA’s renovation, repair, and painting and abatement regulations under TSCA Title 4 will cause increased lead exposure to both children and workers, similar to the situation that prevailed before the regulations were in place. We urge EPA to enforce these regulations, not abandon them, weaken them, or render them toothless. The regulations are based on science. Industry groups, such as the Lead and Environmental Hazards Association, have asked EPA to create a level playing field so that renovation, repair, and painting (RRP) firms and abatement, inspection, and risk assessment firms are properly trained with the rules fully enforced. We also believe that EPA should update and strengthen its lead dust standards, pursuant to the advice of its own Science Advisory Board (NCHH’s Chief Scientist participated in the deliberations of the lead dust panel of the Science Advisory Board).
We offer these comments because we believe a return to a world without the protections offered by EPA’s lead poisoning prevention regulations and programs will allow dangerous and unnecessary methods of removing or disturbing lead paint that are widely known to cause harm. Indeed, these methods are already widely prohibited, but without the EPA regulations and enforcement, they will likely be used.
EPA specifically asked for the following information on whether EPA’s lead regulations:
- Eliminate jobs or inhibit job creation;
The evidence plainly shows that the EPA’s lead poisoning prevention regulations do not eliminate jobs or job creation. In fact, the evidence shows that the regulations help to create jobs for lead abatement and renovation, repair, and painting workers and firms. A partial listing of such firms is at http://www.leadsafelist.com/renovators/. Furthermore, lists of abatement, risk assessment, and inspection personnel are available from each state or from EPA.
- Are outdated, unnecessary, or ineffective;
The comments provided below demonstrate that abatement, inspection, risk assessment, and trained renovation, repair, and painting are all effective and necessary in reducing lead hazards. The EPA lead dust hazard standards are outdated and should be updated, as recommended by EPA’s own Science Advisory Board.
- Impose costs that exceed benefits;
Benefits far exceed costs, as detailed below. There is no need to update the cost-benefit analyses for lead poisoning prevention regulations, because numerous cost-benefit studies have already been completed and show that the benefits far outweigh the costs. This assessment is not affected by the absence of lead test kits.
- Create a serious inconsistency or otherwise interfere with regulatory reform initiatives and policies.
EPA regulations are consistent and do not interfere with other reform initiatives.
- Eliminate jobs or inhibit job creation;
Despite progress in recent years, blood lead levels remain a hundred times above background blood lead levels (Figure 1).1 According to the most recent peer reviewed publication, there are over 535,000 children with elevated blood lead levels (above 5 µg/dL, the CDC reference value) in the United States.2 Preventing childhood exposure to lead has a large return on investment; every dollar invested in lead hazard control results in health, educational, and other savings of between $17-221,3 a return slightly better than even vaccines. However, the Flint water crisis reminds us that investment in these interventions must not only be widespread but sustained, and that much more needs to be done to eliminate childhood lead poisoning. In the U.S., 37 million older homes contain lead paint, and 23 million of them have significant lead paint hazards.4 An estimated 3.6 million of these homes currently house young children (whose brains are still developing); children of color and children of low-income households are disproportionately impacted by lead exposures in these homes. In addition, an estimated 6.1 million homes have lead service lines for their drinking water.5
Note: The natural lead concentration in blood of humans (0.8 nmol/L or 0.016 µg/dL, dashed arrow on the ordinate) was derived from the reported concentrations of lead in pre-industrial human bone (dashed arrow on the abscissa) by graphical extrapolation of the relationship between paired bone-and blood-lead concentrations of humans (squares) and laboratory rats (circles). See Flegal and Smith for details.
Importantly, both these studies showed large declines in dust lead levels, not only on windows as expected but also on floors, which children are likely to contact more frequently. These reductions occurred because lead-safe work practices were vigorously enforced.
In short, abatement and lead-safe renovation, repair, and painting, all of which are currently regulated by EPA, are effective and should not be weakened.
The current prohibited practices (see Table 1) found throughout the vast fabric of state, local, and federal regulations regarding lead dust are predicated upon the decades of scientific research and human epidemiological studies that the federal government, including EPA, has funded for the last 30 years. The prohibited practices are based on the wisdom generated by those studies. The prohibitions are important because they are protective of human health in a scientifically demonstrable way.
There is little question that removing or disturbing lead paint without proper controls causes substantial contamination, posing serious risks to occupants, workers, and others, which is precisely why lead-safe work practices must be enforced, not weakened. At least eight studies support this contention.12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 For example, one study found that children with blood lead levels greater than or equal to 10 µg/dL were six times more likely to live in homes that had dust from painted surface preparation and lack of lead-safe work practices.20 Another study showed that the use of power sanding on the exterior of a house undergoing repainting resulted in soil lead levels in the child’s play area of over 130,000 ppm and interior floor dust lead levels of 27,600 micrograms per square foot (the respective EPA standards are 400 ppm and 40 micrograms per square foot). In this case study, the cleanup costs were nearly $200,000 for a single house21; these costs could have been entirely avoided if a safer method of paint removal were used instead.
“Figure 4.1 A Case Report: Renovation and Lead Poisoning.
To prevent these kinds of high exposure, EPA put significant lead-safe work practices and other control measures in place. These measures have been studied extensively and are effective. Among other preventive measures, they include work practices that minimize the creation of lead dust, containment, occupant protection, special cleaning methods, and quality control in the form of clearance testing and training and certification of workers.
EPA’s regulations include the following prohibitions:
- Open-flame burning or torching.
- Machine sanding or grinding without a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) local exhaust control.
- Abrasive blasting or sandblasting without HEPA local exhaust control.
- Heat guns operating above 1100 degrees Fahrenheit or charring the paint.
- Dry sanding or dry scraping, except dry scraping in conjunction with heat guns or within 1.0 foot (0.30 m.) of electrical outlets, or when treating defective paint spots totaling no more than 2 square feet (0.2 square meters) in any one interior room or space, or totaling no more than 20 square feet (2.0 square meters) on exterior surfaces.
- Paint stripping in a poorly ventilated space using a volatile stripper that is a hazardous substance in accordance with regulations of the Consumer Product Safety Commission at 16 CFR 1500.3, and/or a hazardous chemical in accordance with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations at 29 CFR 1910.1200 or 1926.59, as applicable to the work.
The prohibition of dangerous methods of paint removal is a type of engineering control. Rather than attempting to control emissions after they have occurred, engineering controls are designed to prevent or minimize emissions from occurring in the first place and are frequently cited in other EPA, HUD, and OSHA regulations as being the best method.
1 Flegal, A. R., & Smith, D. R. (1992, May 7). Lead levels in preindustrial humans. New England Journal of Medicine, 326, 1293-1294. Retrieved May 2, 2017, from http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199205073261916#t=article
2 Wheeler, W., & M. J. Brown. (2013, April 5). Blood lead levels in children aged 1–5 years — United States, 1999–2010. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 62(13), 245-248. Retrieved May 2, 2017, from https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6213a3.htm
3 Gould, E. (2009, July). Childhood lead poisoning: Conservative estimates of the social and economic benefits of lead hazard control. Environmental Health Perspectives, 117(7), 1162-1167. Retrieved May 2, 2017, from https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/0800408/
4 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control. (2011, April). American Healthy Homes Survey lead and arsenic findings. Retrieved May 2, 2017, from https://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/documents/huddoc%3Fid=AHHS_Report.pdf
5 Cornwell, D. A., Brown, R. A., & Via, S. H. (2016, April). National survey of lead service line occurrence. Journal—American Water Works Association, 108(4), E182-E191. Retrieved May 2, 2017, from https://www.awwa.org/publications/journal-awwa/abstract/articleid/57880483.aspx
6 Wheeler, W., & M. J. Brown. (2013, April 5). Blood lead levels in children aged 1–5 years — United States, 1999–2010. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 62(13), 245-248. Retrieved May 2, 2017, from https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6213a3.htm