Under the EPA’s new Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP) rule, virtually all contractors who perform work for hire on pre-1978 housing will need training and certification in lead-safe work practices, or face fines and possible jail time (see “New Rules for Lead-Safe Remodeling,” 5/09). But with the April 22, 2010, deadline for contractor certification fast approaching, confusion surrounds one of the key provisions, an “opt-out” clause that allows contractors to sidestep most of the rule’s lead-safe work requirements if clients certify that no pregnant women or children under six live in their homes. According to EPA estimates, more than 7 million “renovation events” and 40 million housing units would qualify for this exclusion.

Soon after the RRP program was announced, however, several public interest groups — including the National Center for Healthy Housing and the Sierra Club — challenged the clause in court, claiming it violates a requirement that the federal government protect children from lead poisoning. To settle the case, the EPA agreed last summer to propose...

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