Lawsuit Against EPA Demands Better Protection from Lead Paint

By Yessenia Funes Aug 24, 2016

Flint, Michigan brought national attention to the U.S. lead crisis, yet a lawsuit filed today (August 24) in the U.S. Court of Appeals reminds that water is not the only place where lead can be found in homes.

Eight groups—including California Communities Against Toxics and New Jersey Citizen Action—filed a complaint against the EPA for its delay in updating dust-lead health standards and the definition of lead-based paint under the Toxic Substances Control Act.

Current dust-lead standards identify a hazard as equal to or exceeding 40 micrograms of lead in dust per square foot on floors, 250 micrograms of lead in dust per square foot on interior window sills and 400 parts per million of lead in bare soil in children’s play areas or 1,200 parts per million average for bare soil in the rest of the yard. According to the suit, which was sent to Colorlines, this is “outdated and unprotective of human health, particularly children’s health.” In addition, the definition of lead-based paint allows nearly 10 times more lead than the Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends.

Working with nonprofit environmental law organization Earthjustice, these groups are asking the court to order the agency to promulgate a rule within 90 days and finalize the rule within six months. As the court document notes, the EPA agreed to take these actions in 2009 but still has not, “leaving hundreds of thousands of families across the country uninformed and exposed to the leaded dust and paint that may be present in their homes.”

The impact of this change would affect millions of households in the nation. There is a prevalence of lead in the infrastructure of many homes. Any built before 1978 could contain lead-based paint; an estimated 37.1 million do. Forty percent of these households exist on incomes below the poverty line, meaning there is minimal likelihood of removing the paint. Whereas 31.6 percent of homes with White residents contain toxic paint, 45.3 of Black homes and 49.3 of “other race” homes do, according to a 2011 American Healthy Homes Survey.

The Earthjustice lawsuit hopes to reduce lead exposure in these overburdened communities.