EPA lowers accepted lead levels in old homes, and lower-income Denverites can get financial help addressing it

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EPA Region 8 Administrator Gregory Sopkin welcomes HUD Regional Administrator Evelyn Lim during an announcement about new rules for lead levels in residential homes. EPA’s downtown Denver headquarters, June 21, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

A sharp tightening of EPA rules on lead in dust makes it likely more homes will need work to reduce hazards, the deputy director of the Denver Urban Renewal Authority said Friday.

DURA's Robin Hickey joined the Denver-based regional directors of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Housing and Urban Development at an announcement at the EPA's offices across from Union Station. It was part of a nationwide roll-out of the new rules. DURA uses federal funds awarded to Denver's Department of Public Health and Environment to help low- and moderate-income Denver homeowners and landlords test for lead and take steps to address any high levels that are detected.

The new rules lower the amount of lead dust deemed acceptable on floors from 40 micrograms per square foot to 10 and from 250 to 100 on window sills of homes built before 1978, the year lead-based paint was banned in the United States. The rules, which also cover certain schools, child care facilities and hospitals, go into effect 180 days after they are published in the Federal Register.

"It is a significant move," said EPA Region 8 Regional Administrator Gregory Sopkin, who added that new scientific research since the levels were last set in 2001 led to the change,

Sopkin's counterpart at HUD, Evelyn Lim, said her department would adopt the new rules as the standard for the housing it supports.

The change "will help us keep our older housing safe," Lim said.

DURA deputy director Robin Hickey speaks during the press conference. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
HUD Regional Administrator Evelyn Lim speaks at the podium. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Lead absorbed into the body can cause brain, nervous system and kidney damage. Children under 6 are at particular risk because their brains are developing quickly.

DURA's Robin Hickey outlined the eligibility requirements for her authority's lead hazard control program. Along with meeting income restrictions and other provisions, households must include children under 6 years old.

The EPA's Sopkins added new rules on lead in plumbing materials were being finalized and could be issued this year.

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