Washington, DC —A coalition of a more than a dozen public health organizations today formally signaled their intent to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its nine-year delay in adopting regulations to ensure that repairs and renovations in older housing are conducted in a lead-safe manner, according to a notice posted by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). EPA’s own estimates conclude that continued delay in issuing regulations exposes 1.4 million children annually to risk of lead poisoning.
Back in 1992, Congress mandated that EPA certify contractors to ensure that workers are trained in lead-safe practices when remodeling buildings constructed before 1978. Under the Toxic Substances Control Act, the deadline for EPA to adopt these “regulations to renovation or remodeling activities” was October 28, 1996. Despite this mandate, the Bush administration has balked at issuing the regulation, which had been tardily prepared during the Clinton years:
- In 2004, then-Deputy EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson vetoed renovation regulations in favor of a voluntary approach. But on May 16, 2005, EPA quietly filed a one-word Federal Register notice that the voluntary program was “withdrawn;” and
- EPA now claims to be working on new regulatory approaches but has not indicated what it may propose — or when.
“EPA’s own studies indicate that this regulation is one of the most cost-effective public health actions in the agency’s arsenal,” stated PEER General Counsel Richard Condit, who filed the notice on behalf of the coalition. “These regulations would more than pay for themselves if just a fraction of the affected children avoided losing even one IQ point due to elevated blood lead levels.”
“Dust thrown up in renovation and repair of older residences is a principal source of lead dust exposure to U.S. children. Unless the dust is contained, it permeates the carpet, ductwork and soil, so that the children breathe the dust for months and years to come.
“This regulation is a simple preventative measure that is long overdue if we are ever to reach the national goal of eliminating childhood lead poisoning,” added Condit, noting that EPA is not only several years past its statutory deadline for acting, but now lacks a discernible timetable for even considering next steps.
Joining PEER in the notice of intent to sue are the Alliance for Healthy Homes (a national organization dedicated to protecting children from lead poisoning and other in-home health hazards), the Lead and Environmental Hazards Association, Improving Kids’ Environment and the Organization of the New Eastside (both of Indianapolis), Project 504 (Minneapolis), the Maine Lead Action Project, Cleveland Citizens Organized Against Lead, Philadelphia Citizens for Children and Youth, Group 14621 Community Association, Inc (Rochester, NY), California Communities Against Toxics, the Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry (Cleveland), and The Arc of the United States (a national organization of and for people with mental retardation and related developmental disabilities and their families).