The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) will sue the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for removing an "opt-out" provision in its lead paint regulations, NAHB announced Thursday.

In April 2008, the EPA issued the Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting rule, which required "lead-safe" work practices in homes built before 1978 — the year the federal fovernment officially banned lead paint.

The National Association of Home Builders will sue the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for removing an "opt-out" provision in its lead paint regulations, the group announced.

In April 2008, the EPA issued a Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting rule, which required "lead-safe" work practices in homes built before 1978 — the year the federal government officially banned lead paint.

A provision to the rule had allowed owner-occupants of such homes to have their contractors forgo certain work practices required by the rule if they certified there were no children under 6 or pregnant women in the home. The EPA removed that provision in April and the amended rule went into effect July 6.

"Removing the opt-out provision more than doubles the number of homes subject to the regulation," said Bob Jones, NAHB chairman, in a statement.

"About 79 million homes are affected, even though (the) EPA estimates that only 38 million homes contain lead-based paint. Removing the opt-out provision extends the rule to consumers who need no protection."

Builders estimate the average cost of additional lead-safe practices will amount to about $2,400 per job, depending on the size and type of job. The association fears the additional cost will deter homeowners from renovating their homes to make them more energy efficient, or that homeowners will resort to cheaper, uncertified contractors.

Other housing industry groups — the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association, the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association, and the Window and Door Manufacturers Association — will join NAHB in filing the suit.

According to NAHB, the regulation was amended "without any new scientific data" and "provides no additional protection to the people who are most vulnerable to lead-based paint hazards."

According to the EPA, the rule will now require all renovation, repair, and painting work on pre-1978 homes to follow certain work and record-keeping practices, including dust control, site clean up, and work area containment.

"At present, almost a million children have elevated blood lead levels as a result of exposure to lead hazards, which can lead to lower intelligence, learning disabilities, and behavior issues. Adults exposed to lead hazards can suffer from high blood pressure and headaches," the agency said in a press release announcing the rule change.

"EPA has eliminated the so-called opt-out provision because improper renovations in older homes can create lead hazards resulting in harmful health effects for residents and visitors in these homes, regardless of age. The result will better protect children and adult occupants during and after renovation, repair and painting projects."

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