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List of State Officials - Martin O'Malley, Governor; Anthony Brown, Lt. Governor; Robert Summers, Acting MDE Secretary 

Volume IV, Number 9

 March 2011

eMDE is a quarterly publication of the Maryland Department of the Environment. It covers articles on current environmental issues and events in the state. 

Maryland lead poisoning fight gets federal boost

By Alvin Bowles, Land Management Administration

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A federal rule that will help Maryland’s efforts to eliminate childhood lead poisoning is now fully in effect.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Lead Poisoning PreventionRenovation, Repair, and Painting rule (RRP) requires that renovations in pre-1978 housing and child-occupied facilities be performed by certified contractors using required lead-safe work practices. Those requirements went into effect last April, but EPA delayed enforcement actions to allow additional time for training. That grace period ended on Oct. 1 for firms and on Jan. 1 for individual contractors.

Lead-based paint hazards are not limited to poorly maintained rental housing. They can be found or created in any home with a legacy of lead-based paint. Since 1993, Maryland has reduced childhood lead poisoning by nearly 98 percent, and in 2009 more Maryland children were tested for lead poisoning and fewer were poisoned by lead than in any year since figures have been collected. But today, more Maryland children with elevated blood lead levels live in housing not covered by Maryland’s 1994 lead law than in regulated rental housing.

The RRP supplements Maryland’s Lead Law by addressing lead-based paint hazards created by renovation, repair, and painting activities. It also applies to properties not covered over Maryland law.

Under Maryland’s law, the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) serves as the coordinating agency of statewide efforts to eliminate childhood lead poisoning by:

  • assuring compliance with mandatory requirements for lead risk reduction in rental units built before 1950
  • maintaining a statewide listing of registered and inspected units
  • providing blood lead surveillance through a registry of test results of all children tested in Maryland.

Maryland’s lead law does not give MDE the authority to regulate renovation, repair, and painting contractors or to deal with buildings constructed between 1950 and 1978, when lead-based paint was banned. This is where the RRP comes in.

In April 2008 the EPA issued the RRP to address lead-based paint hazards created by renovation, repair, and painting activities that disturb lead-based paint in housing and child-occupied facilities built prior to 1978. The RRP is administered by the EPA and establishes requirements for: training renovation firms, renovation workers, and dust sampling technicians; certifying renovators, dust sampling technicians, and renovation firms; accrediting providers of renovation and dust sampling technician training; renovation work practices; and recordkeeping.

Additionally, contractors who perform renovation, repair, and painting jobs in pre-1978 housing and child-occupied facilities must, before beginning work, provide owners, tenants, and child-care facilities with a copy of EPA's lead hazard information pamphlet “The Lead-Safe Certified Guide to Renovate Right.”

There are approximately 16,000 licensed home-improvement contractors and sub-contractors in Maryland that may be affected by the rule. By mid-January, nearly 2,400 firms had been certified by EPA to perform RRP work in Maryland.

Information on certified firms can be found on the EPA web site. People living in housing built prior to 1978 should use only those contractors trained in lead-safe work practices when performing renovation, repair, and painting work.

Additional requirements may be coming. Since the RRP publication, the EPA entered into a settlement agreement with health and environmental advocacy groups concerning the RRP. As a result several changes to the RRP are expected over the next several years, including:

  • dust wipe sampling will be required under certain conditions
  • clearance testing will be required after use of equipment that has a high likelihood of producing lead contaminated dust (e.g., abrasive blasting, sanding, etc.)
  • work practices will be required for the interiors and exteriors of non-residential buildings.

For more information on lead poisoning prevention and the Renovation, Repair, and Painting rule, go to MDE’s Lead Poisoning Prevention Program home page.


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Editorial Board
Maryland Department of the Environment
1800 Washington Boulevard, Baltimore, MD 21230