Libby bill would mitigate risk of toxic lead found in older buildings

Posted: March 09, 2017 | Senator Libby

Legislation would bolster safety standards for contractors at risk of kicking up hazardous dust

AUGUSTA — A bill by Sen. Nate Libby, D-Lewiston, would strengthen health safety protocols for contractors working on buildings with a high likelihood of containing toxic lead.

The bill — LD 441, “An Act To Require Certification under the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule” — was introduced to the Labor, Commerce Research and Economic Development Committee on Tuesday. It would require contractors engaged in painting, renovation, remodeling, maintenance or repair of buildings constructed before 1978 to have someone on-site who is certified under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Renovation, Repair and Painting rule, or RRP.

“It is shameful that even though the EPA began banning lead paint from widespread commercial use nearly 40 years ago, Maine children continue to be poisoned by lead,” said Sen. Libby. “It is about time we bring state resources to bear in enforcing safe lead abatement and lead handling.”

Buildings constructed before 1978 are likely to contain lead-based paint, which could become disturbed in the course of the contractor’s work. Disturbances can create hazardous lead dust when surfaces with lead paint, even from many decades ago, are disturbed. Those certified under the rule are trained in the use of lead-safe work practices, and requires renovation, repair, and painting firms to be EPA-certified.

The bill would also require people performing maintenance on multi-unit buildings at which the owner receives public money in the form of a housing subsidy of voucher, to have this certification.

Lead poisoning causes permanent and irreversible cognitive impairment. Children and their developing brains are especially at risk of damage from exposure to lead. According to the EPA, more than 20 percent of the Maine children diagnosed with lead poisoning between 2009 to 2014 were from the Lewiston-Auburn area.

Blake Whitaker, PhD, an Associate Professor of Natural and Applied Sciences at USM and the Chairperson of the Lewiston Area Public Health Committee also spoke in favor of the bill.

“This Act will provide critical support for the fullest, most expedient implementation of Maine’s Lead Poisoning Control Act by requiring all professionals involved in lead abatement to be certified in federally-recognized best practices in residential lead remediation,” said Whitaker.

The bill faces further action in the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee, and votes in the House and Senate.