Lead-Based Paint Poisoning:

Children Not Fully Protected When Federal Agencies Sell Homes to Public

RCED-93-38: Published: Apr 5, 1993. Publicly Released: May 7, 1993.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed whether the Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Farmers Home Administration (FmHA) have complied with the Lead-Based Paint Poisoning Prevention Act.

GAO found that: (1) HUD regulations for federally-owned properties are limited in identifying and eliminating lead-based paint poisoning hazards; (2) HUD, VA, and FmHA have not fully implemented current regulations; (3) HUD field offices inspected properties, but did not document treatment of defective surfaces; (4) VA did not require its regional offices to document inspections or notifications or treat defective surfaces in pre-1978 housing; (5) FmHA field offices did not test for or treat lead-based paint hazards in residences or require that purchasers be notified about lead-based paint hazards; (6) HUD has reviewed its field offices' compliance with lead-based paint requirements; (7) VA and FmHA have not addressed compliance with lead-based paint requirements in their field office reviews; and (8) new legislation substantially revises requirements for selling federally-owned residential properties.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: According to HUD's response, HUD will determine the public's awareness of lead-based paint hazards through a supplement to the Bureau of the Census Current Population Survey. However, because of the cost and intrusiveness of such data collection, this study will not identify actions taken by residents. Moreover, determining hazard abatement effectiveness is also too expensive.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Housing and Urban Development, Veterans Affairs, and Agriculture should periodically survey a sample of parents living in post-1960 homes sold by federal agencies to determine the degree to which interim controls and abatements have fully and safely been implemented. The surveys should be designed to determine not only the extent to which interim controls and abatements have been implemented, but also what additional or improved guidance will help parents be more effective in reducing their children's exposure to lead-based paint hazards.

    Agency Affected: Department of Veterans Affairs

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Agriculture stated that HUD should conduct post-sale surveys because, among other reasons, it would be more cost-effective. However, HUD has stated the cost of such surveys--beyond determining public awareness of lead paint hazards--would be too expensive.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Housing and Urban Development, Veterans Affairs, and Agriculture should periodically survey a sample of parents living in post-1960 homes sold by federal agencies to determine the degree to which interim controls and abatements have fully and safely been implemented. The surveys should be designed to determine not only the extent to which interim controls and abatements have been implemented, but also what additional or improved guidance will help parents be more effective in reducing their children's exposure to lead-based paint hazards.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The action HUD has taken is to emphasize to its field offices the need to maintain inspection and treatment documentation in its case files. This practice is already required by HUD Property Disposition Handbook HUD 4310.5 Rev. 1 and HUD does not believe the additional verification procedures GAO recommended are necessary.

    Recommendation: Until HUD revises lead-based paint regulations for federally owned properties, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development should direct the Federal Housing Commissioner to ensure that defective paint surfaces have been inspected and treated by requiring field offices to verify that copies of the inspection and treatment documentation have been placed in the offices' property disposition files.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: VA has achieved the intent of this recommendation through the November 1993 revision of its quality control review procedures to include questions that address lead-based paint inspections, treatment, notification, and documentation requirements. In order to assess regional offices' compliance with VA policies and procedures, VA Loan Guaranty personnel from headquarters conduct quality control reviews at each regional office every 2 to 3 years. These reviews cover a random sample of property disposition files.

    Recommendation: Until HUD revises lead-based paint regulations for federally owned properties, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should ensure that all regional offices follow current lead-based paint inspection, treatment, and notification requirements for pre-1978 properties and require them to verify that copies of the inspection and treatment documentation have been placed in the offices' property disposition files.

    Agency Affected: Department of Veterans Affairs

  5. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: According to officials in the Office of Safety and Health of the Rural Housing and Community Development Service, the Department of Agriculture prefers to defer to the Department of Housing and Urban Development in matters of lead-based paint regulation and hazard abatement. Therefore, interim action by USDA to include properties built before 1978 has been halted in favor of using the new regulations proposed by HUD on June 7, 1996.

    Recommendation: Until HUD revises lead-based paint regulations for federally owned properties, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator, FmHA, to include properties built between 1950 and 1978 in procedures for lead-based paint.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  6. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: According to officials in the Office of Safety and Health of the Rural Housing and Community Development Service, the Department of Agriculture prefers to defer to the Department of Housing and Urban Development in matters of lead-based paint regulation and hazard abatement. Therefore, interim action by USDA to include properties built before 1978 has been halted in favor of using the new regulations proposed by HUD on June 7, 1996.

    Recommendation: Until HUD revises lead-based paint regulations for federally owned properties, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator, FmHA, to eliminate any contradictions in procedures issued to county personnel and ensure that these personnel are familiar with lead-based paint policies and procedures for FmHA-owned properties.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  7. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: According to the Deputy Director of HUD's Office of Lead-Based Paint Abatement and Poisoning Prevention, HUD has not and does not plan to implement this recommendation. However, GAO still believes that HUD should implement this recommendation as part of a comprehensive effort to protect children from lead-based paint poisoning.

    Recommendation: In order to help ensure that current and future inspection, treatment, and notification requirements are properly and consistently implemented by the field offices, the Secretaries of Housing and Urban Development, Veterans Affairs, and Agriculture should direct appropriate headquarters officials to: (1) require that all field offices regularly report on their compliance with lead-based paint regulations and procedures; and (2) verify such compliance during scheduled field office visits or reviews.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

  8. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In November 1993, VA revised its quality control review procedures to include questions that address lead-based paint inspections, treatment, notification, and documentation requirements. However, the action taken is only partially responsive to this recommendation. According to the Staff Assistant to the Director of VA's Loan Guaranty Service, VA has not required (and has no plans to require) that all regional offices regularly report on their compliance with lead-based paint regulations and procedures. Rather, the quality control reviews, conducted by headquarters personnel at regional offices every 2 to 3 years, will continue to be used as the mechanism for reporting regional office compliance with lead-based paint procedures.

    Recommendation: In order to help ensure that current and future inspection, treatment, and notification requirements are properly and consistently implemented by the field offices, the Secretaries of Housing and Urban Development, Veterans Affairs, and Agriculture should direct appropriate headquarters officials to: (1) require that all field offices regularly report on their compliance with lead-based paint regulations and procedures; and (2) verify such compliance during scheduled field office visits or reviews.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  9. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: VA stated that it would not be appropriate for individual agencies to conduct the postsale surveys that GAO had recommended.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Housing and Urban Development, Veterans Affairs, and Agriculture should periodically survey a sample of parents living in post-1960 homes sold by federal agencies to determine the degree to which interim controls and abatements have fully and safely been implemented. The surveys should be designed to determine not only the extent to which interim controls and abatements have been implemented, but also what additional or improved guidance will help parents be more effective in reducing their children's exposure to lead-based paint hazards.

    Agency Affected: Department of Veterans Affairs

  10. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: According to FmHA's Assistant Administrator for Housing, the loan docket review sheets for single-family housing--the primary mechanism used by FmHA headquarters to monitor field office compliance with FmHA's rules and regulations--were revised in fiscal year 1995 to include an inquiry on lead-based paint notification. Lead-based paint inspection and treatment requirements were not covered in the revision, and FmHA officials do not know if further changes in the loan docket review sheets to achieve the full intent of GAO's recommendation will be made.

    Recommendation: In order to help ensure that current and future inspection, treatment, and notification requirements are properly and consistently implemented by the field offices, the Secretaries of Housing and Urban Development, Veterans Affairs, and Agriculture should direct appropriate headquarters officials to: (1) require that all field offices regularly report on their compliance with lead-based paint regulations and procedures; and (2) verify such compliance during scheduled field office visits or reviews.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

 

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