EPA’s New Environmental Lead Hazard Standards
On June 21, EPA announced new, tighter standards for lead in dust on floors and windowsills. This final rule, which goes into effect on Jan. 6, 2020, lowers the agency’s dust-lead hazard standards from 40 µg/ft2 on floors and 250 µg/ft2 on windowsills to 10 µg/ft2 on floors and 100 µg/ft2 on windowsills. This change has significant impact on laboratories and professionals.
LABORATORY RECOGNITION Recognition under the National Lead Laboratory Accreditation Program previously required environmental lead laboratories to demonstrate a reporting limit—the minimum quantity of lead that can be quantified to a specified accuracy—for single wipe samples equal to or less than 50 percent of the lowest action limit. For the new hazard standards, NLLAP recognition requires the laboratory reporting limit for single wipe samples to be equal to or less than 5 µg/sample and the minimum detection limit (the minimum concentration of lead that has a 99 percent probability of being identified as greater than zero) to be equal to or less than one half of the laboratory’s reporting limit. The detection limits need to be determined by a nationally recognized procedure such as 40 CFR 136 appendix B, which has been recently revised (PDF). The MDL must be matrix based but can be fortified with a liquid standard solution.
KENNETH T. (KENN) WHITE, MS, MM, CIH, CSP, FAIHA, is the principal of Consultive Services in Virginia Beach, Va., and a member of the AIHA Sampling and Laboratory Analysis Committee, serving as chair of the Environmental Lead Subcommittee. DEREK POPP is the quality control coordinator at the Wisconsin Occupational Health Laboratory in Madison, Wis. He is on the AIHA Proficiency Analytical Testing Programs, LLC Board and a member of AIHA’s Sampling and Laboratory Analysis Committee.
Table 1. Lead Hazard and Clearance Standards
Tap on the table to open a larger version in your browser.
ISSUES FOR PROFESSIONALS EPA has not coupled the reduction of lead-based paint clearance levels with the reduction of the hazard standards. So, if a successful clearance test finds less than 40 µg/ft2 but more than 10 µg/ft2 of lead on a floor, the value meets the current level for re-occupancy but not the new hazard level for floors, and is therefore a dust-lead hazard. In this and similar situations, passing a surface as cleared but (still) a dust-lead hazard may create contractual, ethical, and liability issues for certified lead-based paint professionals. For example, the professional may be contractually required to report the space as passing, but clearing the space and allowing re-occupancy is an ethical error since the hazard remains and is dangerous for the occupants. Either action creates a tort liability since the professional has acted incorrectly and is legally liable for his or her conclusion. Reporting that the space passed clearance as currently defined but remains hazardous by the new standard is of little to no help to the client, even though it is a contractually and ethically correct report. OTHER LEAD STANDARDS On Feb. 16, 2017, the Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes (OLHCHH) issued requirements for dust-lead action levels applicable to Lead-Based Paint Hazard Control (LBPHC) and Lead Hazard Reduction Demonstration (LHRD) grantees. HUD maintains separate lead hazard and clearance standards for grantees’ properties. These and the new EPA hazard standards are all shown in Table 1 for comparison. Lead-based paint professionals should take care to apply the correct action level.