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If testing turns up the presence of lead-based paint in your home or property, you can choose to eliminate the hazard permanently through abatement, which is strictly regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA also regulates renovation, repair, and painting (RRP) projects that take place in buildings constructed prior to 1978 (the year that lead-based paint was banned).
What You Should Know About RRPs and Lead Abatement
When the RRP Rule Applies
The RRP rule, which went into effect in 2010, states that contractors performing renovation, repair, and painting projects in pre-1978 homes must be trained and certified in lead-safe work practices. It applies to interior projects that disturb more than six square feet and exterior projects that disturb more than 20 square feet. The rule does not apply in the case of a negative lead test.
Twelve states are authorized by the EPA to run their own RRP program. EPA runs the program in all other states, tribes, and territories. Use this locator to find an EPA-certified RRP firm in your area.
RRP rules only apply to contractors. Still, homeowners who choose to work on their pre-1978 home without the help of a professional should at the very least follow EPA guidelines for RRP do-it-yourselfers.
EPA runs the lead-paint abatement programs in 11 states. Thirty-nine states as well as Puerto Rico, Washington D.C., and three tribal nations are EPA-authorized to run their own program. The regulations apply not only to abatement, but also to inspection and risk assessment.
Is Abatement Necessary?
Lead abatement isn't required by law. The owners of rental properties, however, have a legal obligation to inform tenants of a positive lead test (read more about renters' rights). A landlord who knows that lead is present and does not disclose this information may be subject to legal action. Lead paint must also be disclosed in the event of a home sale.
When determining whether or not to perform lead abatement in your home, a couple of factors should be considered. Lead poses the greatest risk to children, especially those aged 1-5. Households with children over the age of six or childless households might choose to leave lead-based paint that's in good condition (not chipping or otherwise at risk of producing dust) untouched. But if you have children under the age of six living with you or visiting regularly and there is peeling or chipping lead-based paint in the home, abatement should be performed.
What Abatement Involves
Abatement professionals are trained in methods of containing the work area, minimizing dust, and thoroughly cleaning up the work area with a HEPA vacuum. Removing lead-based paint isn't always required. Other techniques include sealing the contaminated area with encapsulating paint and covering the area with new surfacing (such as hanging new drywall). The most dramatic abatement strategy involves taking out lead-contaminated surfaces (in other words, not simply sanding or scraping away paint) and replacing them. Contaminated soil may also need to be covered or removed.
Lead Abatement Average Costs
- EPA estimates that lead abatement averages $8 to $15 per square foot, or roughly $10,000 to $30,000 for homes 2,000 sq. ft. and smaller. Encapsulation is the cheapest option at around $1,000 to $2,000. The national average for abatement is around $10,000. The actual cost depends on the scope of the problem and the techniques used.
- Certain households are eligible for low-finance government loans to help with the cost of lead abatement. Visit HUD.GOV or contact the National Lead Information Center (NLIC) to learn more.
- Comprehensive lead resources can be found at epa.gov.