Lead-based paint is the most significant source of lead exposure in the U.S. today; most homes built before 1960 contain heavily leaded paint and some homes built as recently as 1978 may also contain lead paint.

Harmful exposures can be created when lead-based paint is improperly removed by dry scraping, sanding, or open-flame burning. Activities like sanding, cutting, and demolition can create hazardous lead dust and chips by disturbing lead-based paint.

In 1978, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) banned the sale of lead-based paint for use in residences. Both the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) have promulgated regulations that impose significant requirements, effective September 15, 2000, concerning lead-based paint hazard notification, evaluation and reduction for landlords and/or property owners of targeted housing.

Lead Disclosure Rule

Congress passed the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992, also known as Title X, to protect families from exposure to lead from paint, dust, and soil. Section 1018 of this law directed HUD and EPA to require the disclosure of known information on lead-based paint and lead-based paint hazards before the sale or lease of most housing built before 1978. More information about the Lead Disclosure Rule is available here.

Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Lead-Based Paint Guidelines

The mission of the Housing and Urban Development Act (1965) is to guarantee a decent, safe, and sanitary home and suitable living environment for every American. To this end, HUD’s Office of Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control provides Guidelines for the Evaluation and Control of Lead-based Paint Hazards in Housing (revised in July 2012).

Definition of Lead-Based Paint

Paint with lead levels that are greater than:

  • 1.0 milligram per square centimeter
  • 1.0 mg/cm2
  • 0.5% by weight

EPA Lead Regulations

Under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA, 1976) manufacturers and importers of chemicals are required to include information about health and environmental effects of those chemicals, including lead.

Title 15 Chapter 53, Subchapter IV regulates activities to reduce lead exposure, specifically:

EPA Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule

Requires that firms performing renovation, repair, and painting projects that disturb lead-based paint in pre-1978 homes be certified by EPA and that they use certified renovators who are trained by EPA-approved training providers to follow lead-safe work practices.

Under the RRP rule, contractors are required to distribute EPA’s Right to Renovate pamphlet to residents before renovation starts and obtain confirmation of receipt. You can read more about the EPA RRP Rule here.

EPA Lead Standards

Lead Dust Hazard Standard
lead-based paintOn January 5, 2001, the EPA issued a final regulation under sections 403 and 402(c)(3) of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The 2001 final rule established regulatory dust lead hazard standards of 40 µg/ft2 for floors and 250 µg/ft2 for interior window sills.  That is, EPA considers lead a hazard if there is greater than 40 micrograms of lead in dust per square foot on floors, and 250 micrograms of lead in dust per square foot on interior windowsills. The rule also established clearance levels for dust following an abatement of 40 µg/ft2 for floors, 250 µg/ft2 for interior window sills and 400 µg/ft2 in window troughs.  This rule is current under review.

Lead in Soil Hazard Standard
The EPA’s hazard standard for bare soil where children play is 400 parts per million (ppm) of lead — and an average 1,200 ppm for the rest of the yard.

Lead in Water
In 1974, Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act. This law requires EPA to determine the level of contaminants in drinking water at which no adverse health effects are likely to occur with an adequate margin of safety. These non-enforceable health goals, based solely on possible health risks are called maximum contaminant level goals (MCLG).  The MCLG for lead is zero. EPA has set this level based on the best available science which shows there is no safe level of exposure to lead.

For most contaminants, EPA sets an enforceable regulation called a maximum contaminant level (MCL) based on the MCLG.  MCLs are set as close to the MCLGs as possible, considering cost, benefits and the ability of public water systems to detect and remove contaminants using suitable treatment technologies.

However, because lead contamination of drinking water often results from corrosion of the plumbing materials belonging to water system customers, EPA established a treatment technique (referred to as the Lead and Copper rule) rather than an MCL for lead.

The Lead and Copper rule, promulgated in 1991 and revised in 2000 and 2007, established an action level of 15 parts per billion (ppb) for lead in drinking water.

States may set more stringent drinking water regulations than EPA.

OSHA Lead Standards

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) governs all occupational exposure to lead.  Rules pertaining to general industry are covered under OSHA 29 CFR 1910.1025.

All construction work where an employee may be occupationally exposed to lead is covered under OSHA 29 CFR 1926.62. All construction work excluded from coverage in the general industry standard for lead by 29 CFR 1910.1025(a)(2) is covered by this standard. Construction work is defined as work for construction, alteration and/or repair, including painting and decorating.

State Lead-Based Paint Rules and Regulations

In addition to EPA, HUD and OSHA rules on lead-based paint, many states have their own regulations. Use the navigation menu to learn more about lead-based paint regulations in your state.