Chip and Joanna Gaines, darlings of the HGTV network and its hit renovating show Fixer Upper, were slapped with a $40,000 fine from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) this week for conducting home renovations without proper lead paint protections.

Magnolia Waco Properties — the Gaines’ limited liability corporation — will also take steps to, “ensure compliance with lead-based paint regulations in future renovation projects, address lead-based paint hazards at high-risk homes in Waco, Texas, and educate the public to lead-based paint hazards and appropriate renovation procedures,” according to a release from the EPA.

“It’s important that consumers and contractors understand that improper home renovation can expose residents and workers to hazardous lead dust,” said Susan Bodine, the assistant administrator of the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, in the release. “Through this settlement, Magnolia is putting in place safeguards to ensure the safety of its renovation work and making meaningful contributions toward the protection of children and vulnerable communities from exposure to lead-based paint.”

Fans of the show should be on the lookout for a brief video featuring Chip Gaines, which will educate viewers about renovating homes with contain lead-based paint. Many of the show’s viewers may also recall an episode of Fixer Upper — which is in its final season — that aired in March, where Gaines talked about testing a home for lead paint and discussed some of the precaution required by the EPA.

Magnolia is also committing $160,000 to abate lead-based paint hazards in homes or child-occupied facilities in its home city of Waco, Texas. A significant number of the city’s homes were built before 1978, and one neighborhood has had a historically higher exposure to lead-based paint than state and national averages, according to the EPA.

The EPA first filed a complaint in November 2017 that alleged Magnolia did not comply with the Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule – part of the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act – in 33 of the homes it renovated and depicted in its show. The evidence they needed was right in the episodes. 

The allegations included: failing to obtain proper certifications covered by the rule; failure to provide homeowners with a pamphlet on lead-based paint hazards; failure to post signs to clearly define work area and failure to cover certain surfaces and floors with plastic sheets to capture falling paint chips.

By the EPA’s account, Magnolia immediately took steps to ensure compliance once it was contacted. The company obtained property certification and training for its staff to ensure future compliance with the rule.

Long-term exposure to lead paint can result in lead poisoning, according to information from the Mayo Clinic. Children under 6 years old are particularly susceptible and lead poisoning could lead to death.  

Email Patrick Kearns

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