A 12-year veteran of the campaign to reduce the dangers of lead-based paint in homes has come out strong against efforts by LBM groups and some Congressmen to delay the Environmental Protection Agency's tough new guidelines on doing renovation projects in old homes.

"This rule has been 18 years in the making, and it's 14 years overdue," Jane Malone, policy director of the National Center for Healthy Homes, told ProSales in a recent interview.

Malone also rejected suggestions that the EPA's Lead: Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP) rule ought to be delayed because it could stymie government efforts to promote job creation through tax benefits for doing energy retrofits in homes. "Federal funds (promoting energy conservation) should not be used to poison children," she said.

The RRP 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. Roughly 250,000 children are lead poisoned annually, most commonly from exposure to lead in dust. Renovation projects place more than a 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 fines of as much as $37,500 per day.

The NLBMDA, National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), and other organizations had urged EPA to delay the April 22 effective date–a date set when the rule was first issued in 2008–but the EPA decided to stick with that date. Since then, they've been promoting a <http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Files.View&FileStore_id=83febe8c-10cb-401c-ba50-fc7d5e7d8204> bill introduced by Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., that would delay implementation of the rule in a state until there have been one year's worth of training classes available. The bill has 26 cosponsors, all of them Republican, and now is in the Committee on Environment and Public Works.

That campaign is likely to be promoted by dealers who see the rule hurting their businesses. One out of four building material dealers responding to a ProSales/NLBMDA survey said remodelers and renovators have canceled work on a project because they lack the certification needed under the new rule, and one out of 20 respondents said remodelers and renovators have returned materials because of the rule. [http://www.prosalesmagazine.com/industry-news.asp?sectionID=0&articleID=1271950] story).

Malone, whose organization has been involved in this issue since 1990, said there have been various lead prevention laws since the 1960s, the first federal regulation was enacted in 1971, and the federal government updated rules affecting lead hazards in federally built and federally subsidized housing (such as Section 8 homes) more than a decade ago.

RRP might seem to many like something that's brand-new, but Malone noted it actually was born in 1992, when EPA was tasked with defining the hazards that come from lead-based paint and recommending ways for renovators to handle the problem.

EPA was supposed to come out with rules on the issue by 1996, but it didn't issue a standard on dust from lead-based paint until 2001. During the late 1990s, the EPA examined how its rules might affect small business and even discussed in 2004 making the entire lead-safe renovation issue a voluntary rather than mandatory program for renovators, which .

Angered by the delay and fearing EPA wouldn't be tough enough against what they regarded as a major health hazard, several community groups sued the government during the winter of 2004-2005. Also then-Sen. Barack Obama pressured EPA in 2005. EPA promised to write a rule by the end of 2006. The federal rulemaking process then took hold, with the agency issuing a proposed rule, taking comments, issuing a second proposed rule, and so on until the EPA issued the actual rule in April 2008 with an effective date two years later.

A number of groups didn't like that April 2008 rule, saying it didn't go far enough to protect children, so they sued. A < http://www.nchh.org/Portals/0/Contents/RRP_Press_Release_8-26-09.pdf> settlement reached in August 2009 was one reason why, when the EPA announced the start of the RRP last month, it also said it would remove, effective in July, 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 it concluded the opt-out provision "is not sufficiently protective" for children under age 6 and pregnant women.

Malone shared LBM dealers' and remodelers' frustration with the EPA over the agency's relatively meager effort since 2008 to promote awareness of the coming rule, as well as its work to get certified trainers into the field. She said she believes chronic underfunding prevented EPA from such efforts. "It's the truth that awareness efforts started late ... but I am pleased with how the pace has picked up. Hundreds of thousands of renovators have been trained"

Another problem is that EPA typically deals with big companies–utilities, energy companies, big manufacturers–or with associations that claim as members a huge percentage of the parties affected. The typical remodeler is a smaller business and less likely to belong to a national association.