The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recently announced a new proposed rule that would lower the threshold for responding to elevated blood lead levels in children under 6 years old living in HUD-assisted housing. Currently, HUD requires intervention for lead-based paint when testing finds children living in target housing with a one-time blood lead level of 20 micrograms per deciliter of lead (μg/dL) or 15-19 μg/dL in two tests taken at least three months apart. HUD’s proposed standard will be CDC’s current “reference range value” of 5 μg/dL, which the CDC may revise every four years.
Lead was used in paints prior to 1978, because it made painted surfaces washable and more durable. The Toxic Substances and Control Act (TSCA) banned the use of lead in paint, beginning in 1978 because of health concerns associated with exposure to lead. HUD adopted the Lead Safe Housing Rule (LSHR), which established requirements with respect to lead-based paint hazards in HUD-assisted projects. As noted in the quote from the CDC report above, children are especially susceptible to lead-based paint in the form of paint, paint dust, soils contaminated with lead paint and dust from lead paint and this type of exposure represents the greatest lead-based risk to children.
HUD assisted housing represents 4.3 million housing units, 450,000 of which are of pre-1978 construction that have children living in them. HUD has determined that HUD-assisted housing presents a lower risk to lead-based paint poisoning than unassisted low- and middle-income homes. Private homes and certain work done in them are covered by different regulations.
HUD’s regulations require efforts to reduce lead-based paint, which may include evaluations of risks and control measures, including renovation, lead paint maintenance and reevaluations. In addition to prevention efforts, if a child under 6 is found to have an “elevated blood lead level” (EBLL), i.e., in excess of 5 μg/dL, the rule would require a set of specific actions:
The implication of the proposed rule is to expand the universe of affected children by lowering the threshold blood lead level. In doing so, more HUD-assisted units and developments will be required to respond to lead-based paint risks. Those owning and operating such properties will need to be aware of these new and potentially expensive new requirements. The public comment period for the proposed rule remains open until Oct. 31.