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Friday, June 21, 2024

EPA proposes tighter lead paint standards for child-care facilities, homes

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In an effort to protect children and communities from the harmful effects of exposure to dust generated from lead paint, the EPA proposed strengthening requirements for abatement in homes and childcare facilities built before 1978. 

If finalized, the rule is estimated to reduce lead exposure of approximately 250,000 to 500,000 children under the age of six per year. 

Lead is a neurotoxin and can cause damage to the brain and nervous system in babies and small children. Lead poisoning can cause behavioral problems, learning disabilities and developmental issues, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Lead contaminated dust is one of the most common causes of elevated blood lead levels in children, according to the EPA. Young children are at risk of higher exposure due to actions such as crawling and hand-to-mouth activities. 

“There is no safe level of lead,” Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Michael Freedhoff said. “Even low levels are detrimental to children’s health, and this proposal would bring us closer to eradicating lead-based paint hazards from homes and child-care facilities across the U.S once and for all.” 

The proposed rule would reduce dust-lead clearance levels to any reportable level greater than zero. It would not require property owners or child-care facilities to proactively test for lead dust but may require state and local testing if a child showed systems of lead exposure. 

Any confirmed exposure to lead would require property owners to pay for cleanup, according to the EPA. 

Although the federal government banned lead-based paint for residential use in 1978, more than half of Indiana’s housing was built before the 1980s. The EPA estimates that 31 million homes built before then contain lead-based paint, and more than 3.8 million of them house one or more children under the age of six.

The proposed rule aligns with the EPA’s Federal Action Plan to reduce childhood lead exposure and address the significant racial and economic disparities in lead exposure.

Many of the buildings that would be subject to the proposed regulations are older structures located in low-income neighborhoods. 

Racial segregation, history of redlining and reduced access to environmentally safe and affordable housing puts communities of color at greater risk of lead exposure. 

“There is no safe level of lead in a child’s blood, “ Representative Andre Carson said. “This is an issue of public health and an issue of equity. It’s past time we make drinking water safe for every child and family.”

Marion County has elevated lead levels in many areas, disproportionately affecting Black and brown residents the most. Lead poisoning is becoming a civil rights issue, according to research from IUPUI. The Indiana Advisory Committee wrote its 2020 report to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights entirely on lead poisoning, stating, “Indiana has a troubling history with caring for and protecting non-white residents from lead poisoning.”

Sixty-three percent of children with elevated blood-lead levels in 2019 were non-white, despite white residents making up 85% of the population. This, coupled with the fact that nearly 60% of Indiana’s housing was built before 1980, when lead was still being used in paint, has led to huge disparities in Indiana. 

The EPA is accepting public comments on the proposal for 60 days. To learn more about the proposal or to submit comments, visit www.regulations.gov via docket EPA-HQ-OPPT-2023-0231.

Contact staff writer Jayden Kennett at 317-762-7847 or by email jaydenk@indyrecorder.com. Follow her on Twitter @JournoJay.

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