One out of four building material dealers responding to a new survey on the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) just-enacted rule on lead-based paint say remodelers and renovators have canceled work on a project because they lack the certification needed under the new rule, a new ProSales/National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association (NLBMDA) survey found. And one out of 20 respondents said remodelers and renovators have returned materials because of the rule.

The online poll of construction supply officials found nearly nine out of 10 respondents were familiar with the EPA's Lead: Renovation, Repair, and Painting Rule, nearly three-fifths had someone at their company assigned to become familiar with the rule, and just over a quarter had applied to become certified in lead-safe practices.

But the survey findings also indicate renovators' awareness of the new rule, which took effect April 22, is spotty at best. For instance, just under 75% of the dealers said at least one of their customers have talked to them about the rule, and nearly 60% said at least one customer has received the training and certification that the EPA now requires before a renovator can work in any home built before 1978. On the other hand, one-fifth of the dealers estimated that no more than 10% of their affected customers are even aware of the rule today, and two-thirds of all dealers said they believed at least half their affected customers were ignorant of the new standard.

"Many of our builder customers are concerned that noncompliant companies will undercut their bids by not conforming to the rules," said one dealer.

"I now have size-specific windows that will not work in other projects," another said. "I will either be stuck with these or will have to sell at a substantial discount."

Nearly half of the dealers estimated that fewer than 10% of their affected customers have undergone training. Some dealers have done their part to spread the word, though; nearly one-fifth said their building material dealership has hosted or sponsored certification training.

The EPA's Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting rule 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. Starting now, contractors working in homes built before 1978--the year lead paint was banned--must be trained and certified in lead-safe work practices. Failure to follow the rules can subject renovators to heavy fines.

The NLBMDA, National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), and other organizations urged EPA to delay the April 22 effective date. They also helped persuade many members of Congress to write to the EPA expressing concern about the legislation. Some members called for a delay, echoing NLBMDA's and NAHB's concerns that not nearly enough trainers were around to train contractors and not nearly enough renovators had been trained and certified.

Nevertheless, the EPA launched the rule on April 22. In fact, it even widened the rule's potential impact by announcing it will remove an opt-out provision that would have kept a huge number of projects from being subject to the new regulations. That opt-out clause had exempted a renovation firm from the training and work practice requirements if the homeowner provided a certificate declaring that no child under age 6 or pregnant women lived in the house. The EPA said in a prepublication copy of the final rule that it concluded the opt-out provision "is not sufficiently protective" for children under age 6 and pregnant women.

As of April 22, EPA said it had certified 204 training providers who in turn have trained an estimated 160,000 people, the agency said. It didn't say how many firms had been certified; EPA previously has estimated the nation would need at least 235,000 firms certified in lead-safe practices.

"EPA did a horrible job communicating this regulation to all parties," one respondent said. "I believe that the EPA has underestimated the number of contractors that will require training nationwide by a multiple of ten. In addition, there is a tremendous shortage of certified trainers, resulting in a majority of the contractors who have signed on for training waiting months for a class. We currently have certified training sessions scheduled into July, which will mean that we still have over 50% of our contractors without certification."

A total of 265 people responded to the survey, which was conducted between April 27 and May 4. Of those, 207 responses were from people at building material dealers, lumberyards, molding/millwork companies, and specialty dealers and distributors. The rest were primarily from building material wholesalers or manufacturers.

The responses came from all regions of the country. Three-fifths of the respondents worked in organizations with annual sales below $10 million, and two-fifths were at companies that got at least 75% of their revenues from professional builders and remodelers.