The National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association (NLBMDA) urged the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today to delay the April 22 launch date of a rule designed to reduce the spread of dust from lead-based paint during renovations of older homes. NLBMDA says there hasn't been enough proper preparation to implement the rule, but the EPA said today it is "on target" for an April 22 start.

"Despite the progress that has been made, the numbers of certified trainers, firms, and renovators is still too limited, and that when coupled with the current lack of accurate test kits and public awareness, EPA is not fully prepared to effectively implement and administer the program under the current timeline established by the final rule," NLBMDA president Michael O'Brien wrote in his letter to EPA administrator Lisa Jackson regarding the Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting Program (LRRP) rule. The letter endorsed a petition by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) to delay the April 22 implementation date.

LRRP 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 could lead to fines of tens of thousands of dollars per day.

While endorsing the rule's general goal of protecting children from health hazards caused by poisoning from lead-based paint, O'Brien said in a statement that "it is clear there has been inadequate analysis, outreach and education on this far-reaching rule which will halt many dealer installed sales and inadvertently cause noncompliance through lack of information." He cited EPA estimates that only about 12,000 of the estimated 235,000 firms that would need to be certified will have done so by April 22.

The EPA, in a news release issued today, focused instead on individuals rather than firms. It said it expects more than 125,000 renovation and remodeling contractors will have taken by April 22 a one-day course in lead-safe work practices.

"To date, EPA has certified 184 training providers who have conducted more than 4,900 courses," the agency said. "An estimated 100,000 people in the construction and remodeling industries have been trained in lead-safe work practices. Based on current estimates, EPA expects more than 125,000 contractors to be certified by the April 22 deadline. EPA has a number of efforts under way to expedite the training and certification process. Included are a print and radio campaign to highlight the benefits of hiring lead-safe certified firms. As a result, it is expected that training capacity will continue to increase significantly as the April 22 deadline approaches. It is likely that many more contractors and renovators will seek and obtain training after the deadline."

NLBMDA and NAHB also have appealed to Congress to press for a delay, and while some on Capitol Hill have done just that, others made softer recommendations. For instance, House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, only asked EPA to revisit the issue (story). And on March 25, 10 senators urged the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to help make certain that it will be possible for Americans to comply with LRRP. But the senators' list of suggestions put delay at the end of a list of possible choices (story).