Proposed Revision of Lead Hazard Standards

Although this proposal is not a rollback of existing standards, Save EPA is highlighting it because of the serious health hazards of lead.

Public comment period closed August 16, 2017

Read the proposal @

Get docket information @

Docket ID: EPA-HQ-OPPT-2018-0166-0001


What’s at Risk, How to Comment and Talking Points

Trump Administration Proposal

EPA has proposed to update  standards for lead-based paint hazards in most pre-1978 housing and child-occupied facilities.  Set in 2001, these standards describe the condition of paint, and set numerical levels of lead in house dust and backyard soil that would be considered hazardous to a child.  The standards were issued to help property owners, lead paint professionals and government agencies identify lead hazards in residential paint, dust and soil.  Lead-based paint and lead-contaminated dust (which can be contaminated by lead in tracked-in soil) have consistently been identified as the most common and hazardous sources of lead exposure in children.

EPA’s proposal would tighten the standards for lead in floor dust and window sills -- but not enough to protect children adequately from the serious health effects of lead, given advances in scientific understanding of lead hazards.  Also, the proposal doesn’t update hazard standards for closely related sources of lead contamination – lead in soil, and in residual dust after cleanup of lead in houses.

Despite the fact that EPA has identified reducing childhood lead exposure as a priority, and despite robust research on health effects, this proposal fails protect children to the level that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers appropriate for environmental management.  In fact, this proposal leaves “hazard standards” so high that, were children to be exposed at those levels, EPA’s own modeling shows that a significant percentage would be identified as highly exposed under CDC policy.

Lead is a neurotoxin and can cause a number of serious health effects in children, including reduced intelligence, low attention span, reading and learning disabilities, hearing deficits, and more.  It has also been linked to juvenile delinquency, behavioral problems, and many other adverse health effects. In adults, elevated blood lead levels can cause high blood pressure, mood disorders, reduced sperm counts, and more.

In 2001, when EPA originally set the standards, CDC’s “level of concern” for lead in children’s blood was 10 µg/dl.  Since that time, additional data has been published on the pervasive health effects of lead.  In 2012, CDC updated its recommendations on children’s blood lead levels.  They confirmed that no safe blood lead level in children has been identified, and that even low levels of lead in blood could adversely affect IQ, attention span, and academic success.  Further, they found that the old blood lead benchmark of 10 µg/dl was no longer adequate, and established a “reference level” of 5 µg/dl.  This is not a level denoting safety; it is a benchmark denoting the blood lead level of the highest 2.5 percentile of children, and is therefore a tool to help focus resources on reducing environmental and other exposures of these most-exposed children.

EPA's proposal would reduce the hazard level for lead in floor dust from 40 μg/ft2 to 10 μg/ft2, and the hazard level for lead in dust in window sills from 250 μg/ft2 to 100 μg/ft2.  When exposed at these levels, EPA’s own modeling shows that at almost 10% of children would have blood lead levels above the CDC’s reference level (which is set at a level that only 2.5% of children are currently above).  In addition, EPA has focused solely on floor and window sill dust, and has not proposed badly needed updates for other related and important sources of lead hazards.  There are no updates to the hazard standards for soil – a major contributor to house dust -- or to the paint standards, which are not protective enough.  Finally, EPA has failed to update its “clearance” standards, so that even when a house is abated for lead, the level left in the dust post-abatement could already, legally, be above the dust hazard standard, insufficient as it may be.

Suggestions for What to Say

First, explain why you’re commenting on this proposed withdrawal – why it matters to you.

If you have relevant expertise, say so. You don’t have to be an expert to make a valid and valuable comment, but if you do have expertise, share your knowledge.  For example, if you are a doctor, therapist, teacher, or other professional who can attest to the effects of lead, please describe them, including the effect on your work, the classroom, etc..

If you have a lead-poisoned child, or know of a lead-poisoned child, who has suffered health effects, please describe them, including effects on the family, classroom, etc.

If you have information relevant to the rule (for example, news articles about events in your community or anecdotal information showing how the public is impacted) include that information and highlight it.

Be constructive and civil. Don’t write a lot if less will do.

Suggested Talking Points

You may use any of  the above material. In addition….

Lead is a dangerous neurotoxin with wide-ranging health effects and negative implications for individuals and for society, including all of the health results noted above along with reduced earning potential and a possible proclivity towards violent crime.  Lead exposure to some of us negatively affects all of us.

Lead in older paint contaminates house dust by deteriorating or during many repair activities.  Lead in soil contaminates house dust by being tracked in on shoes. By failing to update paint and soil standards, EPA greatly raises the chances that dust from these sources will contaminate (or re-contaminate) house dust to hazardous levels.

When someone pays for a lead abatement, they assume that the abated house would be “cleared” to have lead levels below all hazard standards.  This standard would allow an abatement to be completed while legally leaving behind levels of lead that EPA admits are hazardous.

EPA should encourage fixing hazards before a child is poisoned, rather than using a child as a “canary in a coal mine” to identify hazardous homes.  By not setting levels low enough to catch many houses before they poison numbers of children, this proposal misses a chance to do this.

There Is More That You Can Do

It would be great if well-reasoned, fact-based comments were enough to win the day, but in today's deregulatory environment, raising the political stakes of regulatory rollbacks is crucial to stopping or slowing them down.  Submitting comments is a good first step.  For rules that are particularly important to you, please consider taking one or more of the following steps, too.  These methods can help to mobilize public opinion and spur elected leaders to fight the destructive changes that the Trump Administration is promoting.

Write to your members of Congress and other elected officials.  Let them know your concerns and ask them to weigh in on this rollback and speak out publicly in favor EPA’s existing statements on this issue.  These links make it easy to write your members of Congress (your representative in the House of Representatives and your two senators).  If you're willing to register with Countable, this link --  -- allows you to identify your members of Congress and send a message to all three at once.  Or, you can write them separately -- you can use or to find your members' email contact forms or snail mail addresses.

Let your state officials know that you are concerned about this issue.  Write to your elected leaders, get involved with local activists who are encouraging local or state action.  Voice your concern and encouragement in the media, social media, at local meetings, and at every opportunity.  In the absence of federal leadership, it is vitally important that states and local governments fill the void.

Write letters to the editor and even op-eds in your local papers.  Letters to the editor should be fairly brief.

Organize or participate in campaigns to make phone calls or write letters to members of Congress and make phone calls to radio stations during call-in days, or take other actions to spread the word.

Inform your local officials about these issues and ask them to make a public statement or submit comments on a proposed rollback if your jurisdiction has a stake in these issues.  Bring up these issues at town hall meetings.

Spread the word via social media.  Tag your elected officials so they know how you feel.

Join or organize demonstrations.

Talk to your friends, colleagues and neighbors and encourage them to comment and otherwise join in this effort.


Links For More Information

Environmental Defense Fund, “EPA undermines its own proposal for more protective dust-lead hazard standards” --

Environmental Defense Fund, “Paint-lead hazard standard – A reconsideration” --

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Lead Program, "Lead" --


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Save EPA has been an all-volunteer group of former EPA officials who became alarmed about the Trump agenda for EPA and joined together to fight it.

With newly-elected President-Elect Biden and VP-Elect Harris coming in January, the need to "save EPA" is much less urgent. This is not to imply all clear skies ahead - there is much re-building to do, there will be negative pressures on the new administration, and we will likely have policy differences in the future. However, we are hopeful that these differences will be discussed rationally, using science as a basis for moving forward, and keeping EPA's mission of protecting human health and the environment in the forefront.

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