EPA lead regs quietly morph from mandatory rules to voluntary standards

The U.S. EPA has fallen a bit — and by “a bit” we mean nine years — behind schedule on issuing lead regulations pertaining to building renovation. But better late than never, right? Maybe not. Turns out the EPA has quietly shifted its regulatory course from issuing mandatory rules for contractors to that old Bush administration chestnut: voluntary standards. The jettisoned approach would have allowed only certified contractors — whose employees are educated on the safe handling of lead — to renovate buildings built before 1978, the year when lead paint was banned for residential use in the U.S. But internal documents show that sometime in mid-2004, under then-acting EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, the approach took a turn for the, uh, more flexible. The EPA estimates some 1.4 million kids in the U.S. are threatened with lead-paint exposure each year, which is linked to developmental and behavioral problems. Lead paint and lead dust are often stirred up by remodeling.