A draft proposed rule announced Wednesday by the Environmental Protection Agency would significantly reduce acceptable levels of lead paint in older buildings, including in elementary schools with kindergarten classrooms, preschools and child care centers.
The measure, if finalized, would reduce the annual lead exposures for about 250,000 to 500,000 children under age 6, according to an EPA news release. To accomplish this, the agency would greatly reduce acceptable amounts of identifiable lead levels that can remain in dust on floors, windowsills and window troughs after lead removal activities in older buildings and homes.
The federal government banned lead-based paint for residential use in 1978. The EPA said, however, that 31 million pre-1978 houses still contain lead-based paint. Of those houses, 3.8 million have one or more children under the age of 6.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are no safe lead levels for children. Exposure to lead can impede a child's cognitive development, ability to pay attention and academic achievement, the CDC said. Young children are more at risk for lead paint exposure because of typical development activities such as crawling and putting objects in their mouths, the EPA said.
The agency also said communities of color and of lower incomes are often at greater risk of lead exposure, because deteriorated lead-based paint is more likely to be found in poorer areas.
“Even low levels are detrimental to children’s health, and this proposal would bring us closer to eradicating lead-based paint hazards from homes and child care facilities across the U.S. once and for all,” said Michal Freedhoff, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, in a statement.
The proposed rule will be open for public comment for 60 days after the notice is published in the Federal Register. The EPA said it will accept comments on an acceptable compliance date.
In addition to the proposed rule, EPA announced a virtual workshop on Oct. 17 and 18 in coordination with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The workshop is being held to hear perspectives regarding the detection of and exposure to potential lead hazards from existing residential lead-based paint.