This year, Earth Day heralds a surprise for home owners who live in housing built before 1978. On April 22, the Renovation, Repair and Painting Law (RRP)  takes full effect, imposing new compliance burdens for any contractors who work in older homes, and higher costs for the owners. Any project that disturbs painted surfaces must be performed by a certified contractor following rigid procedures aimed at minimizing contamination from lead found in older paint.

Lead paint presents serious health hazards particularly for young children and infants. Small amounts of lead that are ingested or inhaled can impair brain development and cause other serious nervous system and other disorders. Use of lead paint in residential dwellings was banned in 1978, but homes built earlier are at risk of containing lead paint. Contractors who may disturb painted surfaces on older homes must be certified by the EPA in the safe handling of dust and debris that is generated by the work.

The regulations require that the areas affected by the work be completely sealed off and contained so that any dust or debris that may contain lead will not contaminate soil or spread through the air. After the work is completed, the worksite must be thoroughly cleaned and the waste generated must be properly stored and then removed from the site. This is no small task. Anyone who has lived through any renovations at their home knows how much dust is created and how difficult it can be to contain.

The new law is very comprehensive, although numerous challenges remain. One of them is insuring that contractors are aware of, and comply with, the new law. As of March 6, less than 2% of licensed contractors in Massachusetts had received the necessary certification to be in compliance.  Another is forcing homeowners to absorb the substantial added costs of work area containment. But perhaps topping the list is determining how exactly the EPA plans to carry out enforcement –with many recent regulations, there simply is not the necessary manpower or budget to insure that the law will be followed.

What are your thoughts about the new law? How will the new EPA rule affect you? Please share by leaving your comments.