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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a proposal to reduce the amount of lead that can remain in dust on floors and windowsills after lead removal activities, to better protect children from lead exposure. According to the EPA, the tighter proposed standards would increase the effectiveness of lead abatement in pre-1978 dwellings and lower the risk of lead exposure.

The EPA's proposal would lower the "clearance levels" for dust on floor and windowsills after lead removal activities from 40 micrograms (µg) of lead in dust per square foot (ft2) to 10 µg/ft2 for floor dust and from 250 µg/ft2 to 100 µg/ft2 for windowsill dust. The current standards for lead in dust for floors and windowsills have been in place since 2001; however, the best available science has evolved over the past 19 years to indicate human health effects at lower blood lead levels than previously analyzed.

"[The] proposal aims to reduce one of the most common causes of elevated blood lead levels in children and is a major step towards achieving the goals laid out in the Federal Lead Action Plan," EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a news release.

Lead-contaminated dust from chipped or peeling lead-based paint is one of the most common causes of elevated blood lead levels in children, according to the EPA. Young children and infants are especially vulnerable to lead paint exposure because their growing bodies absorb more lead than adult bodies, and their brains are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead than are adult brains. There is sufficient evidence that blood lead levels in children less than 5 µg/dL are associated with increased diagnoses of attention-related behavioral problems, greater incidence of problem behaviors, and decreased cognitive performance.

The EPA will accept public comments on its proposal for 60 days upon its publication of the Federal Registrar notice.

Reducing childhood lead exposure and addressing associated health impacts has been a top priority for the EPA, and in December 2018, the agency introduced its Lead Action Plan, a blueprint with the stated goals of reducing children's exposure to lead sources, identifying lead-exposed children and improving their health outcomes, communicating more effectively with stakeholders, and supporting and conducting critical research to inform efforts to reduce lead exposures and related health risks. The agency issued a status report update on the federal action plan in April 2019, highlighting activities being conducted to support the Lead Action Plan. In addition to highlighting ongoing efforts to strengthen the dust-lead hazard standards for floors and window sills, the status report also highlighted ongoing efforts to increase the number of certified renovation firms capable of providing lead-safe services.

In November 2019, the EPA banned the manufacture, processing, and distribution of methylene chloride in all paint strippers for consumer use. Methylene chloride has been linked to more than 60 deaths since 1980, and research has shown links to lung and liver cancer, neurotoxicity, and reproductive toxicity. In addition to having links to cancer and toxicity, short-term exposures to methylene chloride fumes can rapidly cause dizziness, loss of consciousness, and death due to nervous system depression.

This article is adapted from the article that originally appeared in JLC's sister-publication, Remodeling.

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