A recently formed trade group for window and door dealers today urged the Government Accounting Office (GAO), Congress' investigative arm, to look into what the trade group describes as deficiencies in the studies that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) relied upon in its proposal to toughen a newly launched rule governing renovations and retrofits in homes with lead-based paint.

The letter from the Window & Door Dealers Alliance (WDDA) continues the drumbeat of complaints by trade groups regarding the EPA's Lead Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP) rule. Last week, the National Lumber & Building Material Dealers Association (NLBMDA) sent a comment letter to the EPA, urging it to halt plans to add extra testing requirements to RRP rule until the agency makes a better assessment of the rule's current impact and effectiveness. (Story)

WDDA turned to the GAO because it's "a body that could force the EPA to stand down until they address this complaint and demonstrate that a timely and relevant study has been performed," WDDA vice president David Walker said in a statement. That same statement also quoted WDDA advisory committee member Jim Lett, president of A.B.E. Doors & Windows in Allentown, Pa., as calling the letter "a testament to the fight we have been waging against the EPA's lead renovation, repair, and painting rules. We remain hopeful that by administrative ruling, congressional vote, or legal action, our industry will prevail." The alliance was created earlier this year as an initiative of the National Glass Association.

The RRP rule was issued April 22, 2008, and took effect on the same date this year. It is intended to protect children and pregnant women from lead-based paint, exposure to which can lead to learning disabilities, behavior issues and reduced intelligence. It requires contractors performing renovation, repair and painting projects that disturb lead-based paint in homes, child care facilities, and schools built before 1978 to be certified and follow specific work practices to prevent lead contamination. (See EPA fact sheet.) Ignoring the new rules can lead to fines of up to $37,500 per day.

On May 6, the EPA unveiled a proposed rule that would require dust-wipe testing after many renovations covered by the rule, and in some cases also require the renovating firm to demonstrate that any lead dust remaining in the work area is below legal maximums. It is this proposed rule that WDDA and NLBMDA are attacking now.

Most of WDDA's three-page letter discounts the findings of all four studies EPA used to justify its proposed rule because they were conducted before the original RRP rule had a chance to take effect. Such studies are a natural outgrowth of Congress' 1992 revision of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) which required the EPA to develop regulations reducing exposure to lead.

"All of the studies were conducted prior to the time when the participants had received any training or materials on the effects of lead-based paint on how to avoid being placed at risk," the WDDA wrote. "The EPA has stated in the executive summaries for the studies that the participants were not wearing protective masks, using ventilators, or trained in the handling or removal of debris that has lead-based paint. As such, the lead dust that remained after the work was completed, the elevated blood lead found in the workers, the processes employed in the removal of lead based paint, and the lack of safety equipment used by the workers will be considerably higher than if studies were employed afterthe implementation of the RRP rule.

"The WDDA's contention is not whether the EPA has the authority to promulgate rules on lead-based paint, which is evidenced by the TSCA," the association continued. "Our contention is with the studies the EPA relies upon in order to formulate their rules. The EPA based its proposed rule on the studies that were conducted prior to observing if the new standards as provided in the RRP were warranted. The RRP rule created standards for those involved in the renovation, repair, and painting of target housing to follow. After these standards are imposed and complied with, the EPA should conduct more studies to determine if further regulations as directed in the proposed rule are necessary."