Own an older home? Beginning April 22, only contractors who have been trained in safe handling of lead-contaminated paint dust can legally work on your home. And that’s a good thing for you.
If you’ve been keeping up with contractor-type news, you know that contractors are not happy at all with a soon-to-be enforced EPA law that requires extra precautions when dealing with lead contamination in homes.
Lead was routinely added to paint prior to 1978. When that lead-infused paint is sanded or cut into, dust is created that can be ingested. Lead poisoning has been proved conclusively to cause brain and neurological damage to children. That’s what this law is all about, to protect the health of children. And I can tell you from personal experience, life is hard enough without the added burden of brain damage. Congress directed the EPA to enact these safety requirements nearly 20 years ago, and it’s only now being done.
Some contractors say the financial burden of these safety precautions is too great. Some have turned it into a political issue and another reason to dislike President Obama and his administration.
The law requires that in order to work on houses built prior to 1978 (the year paint with lead in it was banned for residential construction), each contractor must take an 8-hour class that costs about $250 and pass a 25-question multiple-choice test. Then, the workers in the company must be trained on how to protect themselves from lead-contaminated paint dust, and how to protect the jobsite. This often requires plastic gloves, masks, plastic bags to collect the contaminated material, a HEPA vacuum, etc.
Times are tough right now for businesses and so many contractors are rebelling by saying they won’t get certified and they simply won’t take any remodeling jobs on houses built prior to 1978. Some companies report they will go out of business because of this new requirement.
What this means is more work for the companies who are certified to work with lead-contaminated paint dust. The EPA estimates some 125,000 certified contractors by the April 22 deadline, with companies continuing to be certified after that.
If you own a home built prior to 1978, the pool of contractors that you can choose from to do remodeling will not be bigger, but it will be better.
Certain companies have a special affinity for older homes and you will be more likely to choose such a company when others with less of a commitment to older homes drop out of the business. Plus, the companies who have taken the time and effort to become certified in the handling of lead-contaminated dust are the companies who have a demonstrated affinity for safety, both for their own workers and for the home’s occupants.
There have always been people who resent the government stepping in to protect the safety of consumers. Drug companies really hate it. So do polluting industries. Yes, protecting consumers and workers does cost money. However, if a company is so close to financial ruin that a commitment of $1,000 for new safety training and equipment puts them over the edge, you have to assume that if it wasn’t this new safety requirement then it would be something else that caused them to shut their doors, like a late-paying client or being turned down for a business loan from the bank.
I’m certainly sad when good contracting companies go out of business. These are really tough times for everyone. I’m even more sad about contaminants we expose young children to in this modern world.
Bottom line: When you as a homeowner of a house built prior to 1978 seek remodeling services in the future, the contractors who can legally work on your house, meaning they are certified to handle lead-polluted paint dust, will have demonstrated a level of solvency and commitment to safety that should give you some comfort.