Enforcement and Assistance in New England
Lead Paint Hazards
Lead poisoning is a serious and preventable health threat for children and vulnerable populations. New England residents are especially at risk because a large amount of the housing stock is older and more likely to contain lead paint. We are tackling this issue primarily through our Lead Paint Assistance and Enforcement Program, which relies on two important federal rules. First, the Federal Lead Paint Disclosure Rule requires landlords, property management companies, real estate agencies, and sellers to provide tenants and purchasers of pre-1978 housing with appropriate information about lead-based paint in general and known lead-based paint hazards in the specific housing. These requirements allow a renter or purchaser to be able to make an informed decision about whether to lease or purchase the housing.
In addition to the Disclosure Rule, we also enforce the Pre-Renovation Education Rule. This federal rule requires contractors or others conducting renovations/repairs in residential housing built before 1978 to provide the residents with information to help prevent lead exposure. Under the rule, plumbing, drywall, painting, electrical work, replacement of doors or windows, or any other activity that disturbs more than two square feet of paint is considered “renovation.”
Over the past fiscal year, the Region conducted 126 inspections covering over 10,000 housing units across New England. In addition, of the cases settled in 2006, approximately $74,000 was paid in fines and penalties and more than $279,000 was paid in supplemental environmental projects and injunctive relief to be used for testing and abating lead paint hazards.
Because it is critically important to disseminate information about the need to protect families from potential exposure to lead paint, especially pregnant women and young children, we expanded our outreach activities this past year by mailing out compliance assistance letters to over 600 large and mid-sized painting contractors, home renovators, and carpenters explaining the Pre-Renovation Rule. Similar letters were also sent to 340 municipal building inspectors/code enforcement officers and public housing directors in New England so that they better understand the importance of this rule.
The Region also participated in door-to-door compliance assistance activities in Boston. Working with a lead prevention non-profit agency, the Region canvassed home owners in communities with the highest lead poisoning rates in the city. In addition to making them aware of the Pre-Renovation Rule, they also informed them of local and state abatement funding sources. These volunteers provided critical lead prevention and home renovation information to hundreds of homeowners in a single day. Finally, the Region provided direct compliance assistance during each lead inspection. The inspection team sits with the property owner, property manager, or renovator, explains the Rule, makes them aware of significant reporting errors, explains how to improve reporting, and advises them of compliance assistance resources.
During the past year, Boston University, working under an EPA grant, made 21 lead paint prevention presentations to 650 people in our targeted communities. In total, more than 1,700 people attended 49 conferences. Fourteen presentations were to real estate professionals covered by the Disclosure Rule: realtors, landlords, property owners, property managers, and attorneys, (some also covered by the Pre-Renovation Education Rule). Four presentations were to contractors covered by the Pre-Renovation Education Rule. Two presentations were to regulatory officials and employees of lead-poisoning prevention programs.
In April of 2006, EPA’s Lead Safe Yard Project was honored by the American Public Health Association. This project, a collaborative effort among EPA, Boston University’s School of Public Health, and the Boston Public Health Commission, provides low-cost methods to eliminate lead in urban residential house lots. Lead-contaminated soil in older Boston neighborhoods remains a source of exposure that has not received widespread attention. Even when houses have been de-leaded, yard soil has rarely been sampled or treated. Under this program, nearly 100 house lots in North Dorchester and Roxbury have received lead-safe yard improvements. Improvements included removing contaminated soil and adding mulch to raise the level of the ground on which children play; adding compost to garden plots from which previously contaminated soil had been removed; improving bare soil areas with lawns, mulch, and stepping stone paths; and creating gravel driveways. The Boston Public Health Commission and Lead-Safe Boston continue to provide lead-safe yards through their housing rehabilitation and de-leading programs, which are open to income-eligible Boston residents. The Lead Safe Yard Project has developed a how-to handbook for individuals, neighborhood associations, community agencies, and local government to encourage replication of the program.
Several years ago, we adopted a goal to eliminate medically-confirmed blood lead levels greater than 10 micrograms per deciliter among children under the age of six in New England by 2010. We are well on our way of achieving that goal. We have seen a dramatic decrease in elevated blood lead levels among children in Boston. We have raised awareness of the problems of lead paint hazards within the real estate industry and we are seeing our six New England states taking a more active role to reduce blood lead levels in children. Currently, we are expanding our efforts into additional areas based on the latest data.