Toxic Substances:

Status of EPA's Efforts to Develop Lead Hazard Standards

RCED-94-114: Published: May 16, 1994. Publicly Released: Jun 16, 1994.

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Peter F. Guerrero
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the: (1) Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) development of standards and guidelines for lead hazards; and (2) additional actions EPA must complete to issue the standards and guidelines.

GAO found that: (1) EPA missed the legislatively imposed April 1994 deadline to issue standards defining hazardous levels of lead; (2) EPA has completed the technical work for a standard for lead-based paint, but it must complete research on lead-contaminated soil and household dust, develop standards for them, and complete the regulatory review process before it can issue the interrelated standards together; (3) EPA will probably miss its own September 1995 deadline for issuing the standards because of the long regulatory process; (4) EPA plans to issue interim technical guidance on hazardous lead levels in May 1994; (5) EPA efforts to consult with state and local governments and other interested parties have delayed its development of lead inspection and abatement standards, but it expects to issue them by November 1995; (6) EPA issued its renovation and remodeling guidelines on time, but they did not contain procedures for conducting lead abatement activities; (7) the delay in issuing standards could have serious environmental and health consequences because of poor abatement practices; and (8) EPA should promote the wider use of Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) guidelines for abating lead-based paint in its housing projects.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: EPA was implementing this recommendation. However, before EPA completed the planning activities upon which the revised schedule would be based, the agency was sued for not meeting statutory timeframes for issuing the lead hazard standards. To settle the suit, EPA agreed to a consent order that, among other things, resulted in EPA issuing a revised schedule. Although the revised schedule was available to the public under the consent order, EPA did not make an overt effort to ensure that the revised schedule and associated information were provided to Congress, as GAO recommended.

    Recommendation: To guide EPA efforts in developing the lead standards, the Administrator, EPA, should assess the additional steps, resources, and time required to complete the lead hazard and abatement standards. EPA should then revise its schedule for issuing the lead standards and identify the major tasks required and related milestones. Once completed, EPA should provide this information to the appropriate congressional committees to assist them in their oversight activities.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: EPA developed and issued interim guidance on July 14, 1994, that incorporates the dust clearance standards from the HUD guidelines and references the guidelines' inspection and abatement procedures. EPA has conducted outreach through the agency's regional offices, state lead contacts, and conferences. The guidance is also available from the National Lead Information Center's Clearinghouse and the National Technical Information Service. EPA continues to take measures to ensure that the guidance is available, to increase dissemination of the guidance document, and to promote its use.

    Recommendation: To ensure that the public is protected from lead-based paint hazards before the standards are issued, the Administrator, EPA, should promote the use of HUD lead inspection and abatement guidelines among abatement contractors, state and local government agencies, and the public.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency


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