EPA Ordered to Take Action on Protecting Children from Lead Based Paint

http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/366598-court-orders-epa-to-take-quick-action-on-lead-paint

A federal appeals court is ordering the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take action within 90 days to revise standards meant to protect children from lead-based paint. The San Francisco-based Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled Wednesday that the EPA has taken too long to act on a 2009 petition from health and environmental groups who want the agency to further restrict lead paint limitations. The judges issued a “writ of mandamus,” a rare edict from a federal court that requires a litigant to take action.

The EPA told the court that it would take another six years to develop a lead paint rule, which the judges did not accept. “EPA fails to identify a single case where a court has upheld an eight year delay as reasonable, let alone a fourteen year delay, if we take into account the six more years EPA asserts it needs to take action,” Judge Mary Schroeder, nominated by former President Carter, wrote on behalf of herself and Judge Randy Smith, a George W. Bush nominee. The judges said the EPA also has an unambiguous duty to act. Scientific studies point toward a higher danger to children from lead paint than when Congress developed standards in the 1990s, studies that the EPA did not dispute.

“Under the [Toxic Substances Control Act] and the Paint Hazard Act, Congress set EPA a task, authorized EPA to engage in rulemaking to accomplish that task, and set up a framework for EPA to amend initial rules and standards in light of new information,” the judges said. “The new information is clear in this record: the current standards for dust-lead hazard and lead-based paint hazard are insufficient to accomplish Congress’s goal.”

An EPA spokesman said the agency would review the Wednesday ruling, and pledged that officials would “continue to work diligently on a number of fronts to address issues surrounding childhood lead exposure from multiple sources.” The EPA has declared lead poisoning to be the greatest environmental hazard to children under age six. The agency agreed in 2009 to accept public comments on the lead petition and to initiate a rule-making, but did not set a time period for the rule-making. The judges ordered the EPA to propose a new rule within 90 days and make a final rule within a year after that.

Consumer Groups File Petition to Ban Lead Acetate in Hair Dyes

Popular men’s cosmetic products are raising concerns over a potentially harmful ingredient. Lead acetate can be found in Grecian Formula and Youthair hair dye products in the U.S. Consumer groups filed a petition to the FDA to crack down on this lead compound, which is a known neurotoxin. For nearly a decade, Europe and Canada have banned the sale of these same products because they contained lead acetate, and those manufacturers offer consumers in those countries a lead-free alternative. So then why are American consumers still able to purchase these products? If the petition is successful, that may change, reports CBS News correspondent Anna Werner. Richard Gandolf didn’t like going gray. So for the past 20 years, the 73-year-old retired civil servant has been using a cream from Youthair that turns his gray hair dark. Grecian Formula is another, familiar from those 1980s TV commercials. “I think the gray’s going. Slowly. Gradually. And no one is noticing,” the ad said.

Something the ads don’t mention, however, is that both of those products contain lead acetate, a lead compound which the CDC lists as a possible carcinogen. The ingredient can be harmful, especially to children. Consumer groups including the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) are now asking the FDA to get the lead acetate out. “We want FDA to remove its approval for lead acetate as a color additive in hair dyes,” EDF’s Tom Neltner said. Manufacturers of the products tell consumers to only use the dye on their hair, but not all follow directions.

One 2014 study in the Journal of Clinical Neuromuscular Disease documents the case of one man who used progressive hair dye with lead acetate to color his beard and had “numbness and tingling” in “both feet and hands” for seven months. “He was very surprised that there was lead in his product and he stopped the product the moment he discovered that there was lead in it,” the study’s author, Dr. Wissam Deeb, said. But lead acetate is a much bigger concern for children. Government health authorities warn “do not allow children to touch hair colored with lead-containing dyes” because the compounds “can rub off onto their hands and be transferred to their mouths.”

“When you use it in the real world, it’s going to be lead on the soap dispenser. Lead on the faucet. Lead on the counter and kids will get exposed to it that way,” Neltner said. The company that owns Grecian Formula, Combe, declined an on-camera interview but told us in a statement that the data on hand-to-mouth transmission of lead is “insufficient” and “lead acetate has been used safely as a color additive in ‘progressive’ hair dye products for decades based on extensive scientific studies.” The FDA does currently approve the use of lead acetate in these products. We also reached out to American Industries International, the manufacturer of Youthair products, but did not receive a response. Youthair does offer a lead-free alternative product in the U.S.

NCHH Releases Blueprint for Action to Prevent Childhood Exposure to Lead

10/22/2014

Media Contact: Laura Fudala, lfudala@nchh.org, 443.539.4167

Columbia, MD (October 22, 2014) – Today, the National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH) released “Preventing Lead Exposure in U.S. Children: A Blueprint for Action” – a report describing the actions the government, advocates, and the private sector must take to protect children from a disease that affects over a half-million children.

The release of the report coincides with National Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Week (October 19-25), first established by a resolution by U.S. Senator Jack Reed in 1999.

“Our lead poisoning prevention movement should be proud of the 80-percent reduction in blood lead levels in the U.S. Yet, the progress is uneven, with many communities still sending thousands of children to school where they will struggle to learn because of their past lead exposure,” said Rebecca Morley, executive director of the National Center for Healthy Housing.

Under NCHH’s leadership, a diverse group of more than 40 parent advocates, researchers, policymakers, and public health and housing practitioners collectively created the plan as a way to reboot national efforts to eliminate the disease.

Later this week, NCHH will join Tamara Rubin in Washington, DC to screen her documentary film, MisLEAD: America’s Secret Epidemic. It is the first documentary film to explore the hidden epidemic of childhood lead poisoning through the eyes of a parent. Tamara is an Oregon mother whose children were poisoned during a home renovation.

The report calls for making more than 11 million homes lead-safe and ensuring that children who have already been exposed get the healthcare and educational support they need. Specific recommendations in the report:

  • Require that homes built before 1960 to be tested for lead before sale.
  • Ensure that homes receiving energy efficiency upgrades do not create lead hazards.
  • Double the funding for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) lead poisoning prevention efforts.
  • Reduce lead in drinking water by accelerating the replacement of lead service lines in homes.
  • Increase from 18 to 50 the number of states that comply with Medicaid requirements for follow-up services in the homes of enrollees who have been exposed to lead.
  • Ensure schools provide the assessment and intervention services to the 500,000-plus children exposed to lead to improve their ability to learn.

In 2012, CDC revised the level at which children were considered to have too much lead in their blood. The new approach increased sixfold the number of children nationwide considered to have dangerous levels of lead in their blood. This, in addition to the stalled progress in many communities at high risk of lead exposure, led NCHH to convene the group to take stock of the situation and set new goals for the effort to eliminate the disease.

Even low doses of lead in the blood have been shown to harm the development brains of young children. It affects their intelligence, learning ability, and behavior. These children are six times more likely to drop out of school.

Hardware Stores and Painting Contractors Dismiss Asbestos Danger

Four years after the EPA implemented strict guidelines for lead paint removal from houses built before 1978, an alarming number of hardware stores and painting contractors reportedly are pooh-poohing the dangers of lead paint exposure — like brain, kidney, digestive and fertility disorders — and downplaying precautions that contractors should take to keep you safe. That’s what Angie’s List’s “secret shoppers” found when they asked 200 randomly selected contractors and hardware stores around the country about the best way to strip paint and renovate a child’s room in a 1920s house.

Here’s some sage advice the shoppers collected. “It’s just a bunch of B.S., really.” “Lead only harms you if you eat it.” “Just close the door and wear a mask.” “The whole lead thing is very overblown unless your kids are chewing or gnawing on the windowsills.” According to Angie’s List, nearly 20 percent of contractors and hardware stores gave “poor advice,” including dry-scraping old paint or removing it with a heat gun, two no-no’s when it comes to removing lead paint. Hardware stores were the worst offenders, Angie’s List says, giving dangerous advice 47 percent of the time.

Any contractor who removes lead paint is supposed to have an EPA certification that shows they understand safety precautions associated with lead paint removal. However, even certified contractors can scrimp on costly precautions that will protect your family and neighbors from lead paint exposure. “You have to be an educated consumer in this process, and understand the risks of lead paint and how it affects your family,” says Angie Hicks, founder of Angie’s List. So, if your house was built before 1978 (when most paint contained lead) it’s a good idea to backstop your contractor by knowing some EPA basics of lead paint removal.

  1. Minimize dust by misting surfaces with water before sanding or scraping.
  2. Only use sanding and grinding machines with protective shrouds that are attached to a HEPA vacuum.
  3. Never use an open flame torch or high temperature heat gun (above 1,100 degrees) to remove lead paint.
  4. Cover indoor work areas and 5 feet beyond with protective sheeting.
  5. Cover exterior work areas with protective sheeting extending 10 feet from the work surface.
  6. Keep children away from work areas.
  7. Thoroughly clean work areas after painting.

Lowe’s Pays $500,000 Federal Penalty

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Lowe’s Home Centers has agreed to pay a $500,000 federal penalty in settling claims that its contractors in at least nine states broke environmental rules for addressing lead paint dust during home renovation projects, two federal agencies announced Thursday. As part of the deal announced by the Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency, the North Carolina-based home improvement retailer also pledged to adopt a compliance program for dealing with lead paint during the renovation programs offered through its more than 1,700 stores.

The Justice Department’s complaint and brokered deal with Lowe’s, filed Thursday in federal court in East St. Louis, Ill., accused an unspecified number of Lowe’s contractors of not following an EPA rule requiring them to use “lead-safe” practices when working on homes, day-care centers and schools built before 1978. That was the year lead paint was banned for residential use because of health risks. The lawsuit also claimed contractors failed to adequately complete paperwork showing adherence to safe practices in dealing with lead paint in homes being renovated or repaired, and that the company failed to document that its contractors were properly trained or certified. The Justice Department and EPA said Thursday’s deal constituted some measure of environmental or social justice, noting that many pre-1978 homes are in urban areas commonly populated by minorities.

Lead paint can be especially harmful to children, given that high levels of exposure while their nervous systems are still developing can subject them to possible behavioral disorders and learning disabilities if not detected early. Lead exposure also can cause reproductive problems, high blood pressure, nervous disorders and memory problems in adults, as well as seizures and sometimes death. The $500,000 civil penalty agreed to by Lowe’s is the biggest for violations of the federal Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule, the Justice Department said. The deal will undergo a public comment period, then be considered for approval by a federal judge.

“Today’s settlement sends a clear message to all contractors and the firms they hire: Get lead certified and comply with the law to protect children from exposure to dangerous lead dust,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Lowe’s is taking responsibility for the actions of the firms it hires, and EPA expects other contractors to do the same.” A Lowe’s spokeswoman said the company cooperated with the EPA and resolved all issues the agency alleged. Amanda Manna added that Lowes, among the nation’s biggest home improvement retailers where homeowners can contract for home projects, also said the contractors in question are a sliver of the thousands the company hires.

No project by a Lowe’s contractor dealing with lead-based paint has been shown to have posed health issues, Manna said. The EPA, as part of a review spurred by consumer tips and complaints, said the violations made public Thursday involved certain Lowe’s stores in Alaska, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Tennessee and Vermont.

EPA Fines Omaha Firm for Lead Violations

EPA – Albracht Perma-Siding and Window Co., of Omaha, Neb., has agreed to pay a $6,188 civil penalty to the United States to settle allegations that it failed to notify an Omaha couple about lead-based paint risks before the company or its subcontractors performed renovation work at their pre-1978 home. It also failed to keep records of lead safe work practices it stated it performed at 10 pre-1978 homes in Lincoln, Bellevue, and Omaha, Neb. According to an administrative consent agreement filed by EPA Region 7 in Lenexa, Kan., Albracht or its subcontractors were legally required to provide owners and occupants of the properties with an EPA-approved lead hazard information pamphlet before starting renovations at the properties. It is also required to maintain records of required lead safe work practices performed at the properties.

EPA Seeks Input on Commercial Lead Paint Program

Window and Door – Building on existing regulations requiring that renovations of homes and child-occupied facilities built prior to 1978 be performed by certified contractors using lead-safe work practices, the Environmental Protection Agency is currently in the process of developing certification, training, and work practice requirements for renovation, repair, and painting activities on public and commercial buildings. Doreen Cantor Paster, associate chief of EPA’s Lead, Heavy Metals, & Inorganics Branch, announced the agency has opened a comment period to allow the public and interested stakeholders to submit data and other information relevant to the creation of new commercial lead paint requirements. This comment period runs through April 1, 2013.

EPA Fines 16 Firms for Violations of Lead-Based RRP Rule

Washington, DC – EPA just announced 16 enforcement actions for violations of lead-based paint Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule, which requires that contractors that work on pre-1978 dwellings and child-occupied facilities be trained and certified to use lead-safe work practices. This ensures that renovation/repair activities like sanding, cutting, and replacing windows are done in ways that minimize dangerous lead dust. Enforcement actions include 13 administrative settlements and 3 filed administrative complaints.

EPA Delays Lead Paint Rule for Commercial Buildings Until 2015

National – The Environmental Protection Agency has delayed its plans to expand the Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule to commercial buildings until 2015. EPA had agreed to the development of the commercial buildings rule by September 2012. However, as NAHB and other trade groups repeatedly pointed out to EPA and members of Congress charged with EPA oversight, the agency failed to perform prerequisite studies on the potential lead dust exposures to adults – not children – during renovation activities in pre-1978 commercial buildings.

Even Low Blood Lead Levels Linked to Gout Risk

New York, NY – Even relatively low levels of lead in the blood may be linked to an increased risk of gout, a painful form of arthritis. Researchers have known that heavy lead exposure is linked to the condition – a form of arthritis in which the joints periodically become swollen, red and hot. But the new findings connect gout risk to low levels of lead in the blood – well within the range currently considered acceptable for adults.

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