Exposure to lead is linked to a range of human health impacts, from behavioral problems and learning disabilities to seizures and death. Children under the age of six are most at risk. To improve public health, the EPA now requires that firms performing renovation, repair, and painting projects that disturb lead-based paint in pre-1978 homes, child care facilities, and schools be certified to do so by the EPA. They also must use certified renovators who are trained by EPA-approved training providers to follow lead-safe work practices. Individuals can become certified renovators by taking an eight-hour training course. The rule mandating this requirement was published on April 22, 2008, and became effective on April 22, 2010.
Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced an amendment to H.R. 4899, the Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2010, that would deny funding for several months to the EPA to hold contractors liable for violating this rule. There was considerable debate at the time about the extent to which contractors had been provided with enough training opportunities by the EPA, with some senators arguing that there were insufficient opportunities and others countering that a myriad of opportunities had been provided and were continuing to be offered. Whatever the merits of each view, the fact remains that this amendment would not only prohibit the EPA from fining those contractors who had wanted to undergo safety training but were unable to do so through no fault of their own; the amendment could also prohibit the agency from fining those contractors who willfully took no precautions to confine or contain lead-contaminated paint chips, even if it resulted in the lead poisoning of children.
The amendment passed. The amendment was not included in the final supplemental appropriations bill that became law. The EPA extended the time for contractors to complete training until the end of 2010.