Lead-paint rule counterproductive

Posted: March 16, 2012

Next month will mark the second anniversary of the Environmental Protection Agency's Renovation, Repair, and Painting Rule, known as RRP, under which contractors who work on houses built before 1978 must be trained and certified to work safely with lead paint, which can have a negative neurological impact on young children. The rule kicks in when at least six square feet of painted surface will be disturbed. If you hire someone to work on your home who is not requiring you to sign a "Renovate Right" pamphlet, that person is breaking the law and could face steep fines.

As a contractor certified under the rule, I think it represents a tremendous overreach by the government - one that forces homeowners to pay for onerous, expensive procedures. The EPA estimates the average added cost to be about 10 percent of the total cost of the work, but I am finding this to be a gross underestimation.

A recent bathroom remodeling my company performed under the rule's requirements added $2,000 to the cost of the job. The workers were required to wear special protective clothing and respirators; the area was cordoned off using plastic sheeting, special signs, and caution tape; all the debris was wrapped in plastic; workers could not leave the containment area without a thorough cleaning, including removal of their protective clothing; expensive special vacuums had to be used; and the area had to be cleaned both before and after the work was done.

Such requirements are causing homeowners to use unlicensed, uncertified, fly-by-night contractors to avoid the additional costs. Furthermore, many good, qualified contractors are refusing to work on older homes for fear of repercussions and lawsuits. In short, this rule is hurting the remodeling industry and placing families in jeopardy.

Astonishingly, the rule allows homeowners to do whatever work they want without regard for safety. That's right: Homeowners can send plumes of lead dust into the air, contaminating entire families and neighborhoods, without fear of reprisal. But they cannot give the contractors they hire that option.

I understand the need to protect the most vulnerable among us. But what is the problem we're trying to address? The vast majority of American children with elevated lead levels live in substandard housing in urban areas. But rather than address the problem where it exists, the government has cast a net over the entire nation. From coast to coast, billions of dollars will have been spent unnecessarily as a result.

Having been a remodeling contractor for more than 35 years, I know firsthand that government regulations like this can have a devastating effect on small businesses. The average homeowner isn't aware of the bombardment of new rules and regulations such as this one, all imposed with good intentions but without a lick of common sense. All they're doing is driving good people out of business and putting the cost of maintaining your home out of reach.

John DiPrimio is the owner of DiPrimio Construction in Jenkintown. He can be reached at diprimioconstructs@gmail.com.

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