I was surprised. I am appalled. My wife and I decided to go for a walk around the neighborhood and what I saw was extremely disturbing. Workers from Lowe’s were installing windows in one of my neighbors homes and did not take any precautions what so ever to comply with lead safe renovation.On April 22nd, the EPA’s new lead safe renovator laws went into effect requiring contractors who work on homes built prior to 1978 take precautions to safeguard homeowners against lead poisoning. To be certified, contractors must complete a day long course on lead safe renovation and use lead safe practices to contain lead dust.
Lead was a common paint additive prior to 1978 and high levels of lead contamination have caused people to become ill and for children to develop cognitive disabilities. Especially at high risk are children and women who may be pregnant. The federal government requires lead safe renovation on all homes with lead paint levels of 0.5% or more to go through strict containment procedures. For 49 of the 50 states, there is a readily available test on the market that will tell renovators if lead levels are high enough to require that lead safe renovator practices must be used. Wisconsin lawmakers decided to make compliance even more difficult and Wisconsin is the only state in the country to require lead safe renovations where lead levels are higher than 0.06%. The technology is not yet available to make a commercially available and economically affordable test that will record lead levels that low. This means that legitimate, law abiding contractors must either purchase a $40,000 machine to test lead levels or they must assume lead is present and take precautions accordingly.
Lowe’s is not one of those law abiding contractors.
Last month I warned of this in my column. I wrote that there will be some contractors who simply ignore the laws rather than deal with the approximately $100 per window cost that contractors will have to bear. It was my assessment at that time that it would be the small, unlicensed Mom and Pop operations that happen to own a truck and a ladder and masquerade as legitimate contractors who would ignore the laws. It was those unlicensed businesses, I contended, that would continue to sell windows at the same market price as they always had, while legitimate contractors who had taken the courses, acquired the certifications, purchased the equipment, and used lead safe renovation techniques would be at a disadvantage.
Well I was right — sort of. I say sort of because the first contractor I saw violate this law was Lowe’s.
I did not expect to see a “Lowe’s Installation in Progress” sign in front of one of my neighbors home with workers slamming in windows without any roping off of the job site or any plastic containment barriers.
Having taken the courses and incurred the expenses to become a Lead Safe Renovator, I was appalled to see installers ignoring all safety requirements in a home with two small children. Lead poisoning is not a funny little game. It is a serious problem requiring painful chelation therapy for anyone who has been adversely affected by high lead levels. Even then, the damage done by lead poisoning may not be reversible. It is unconscionable for a contractor to cut corners to safe a few dollars when children are standing nearby watching the installation and playing in the work zone. To see a renovator who so blatantly ignores these rules when children and women of child bearing age are nearby is mind-blowingly irresponsible.
But never, never in a million years, would I have expected one of my favorite home improvement stores to be utilizing such unsafe practices and putting homeowners, children and even possibly babies inutero at danger. I am saddened to see that Lowe’s would use such irresponsible practices to make a buck.Share