Review of Literature and Potential Impacts of Alternative HUD Lead-Based Paint Definitions

Healthy Housing Solutions, with its subcontractor the National Center for Healthy Housing, provided the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes with data and analysis on the implications of modifications to the current definition of lead-based paint for their impact on housing receiving federal assistance. The current federal definition of lead-based paint is “paint or surface coating being equal to or exceeding 1 milligram per square centimeter (mg/cm2) or 0.5% by weight.” HUD requested a technical analysis to support its response to a 2009 citizen petition to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) seeking a change in the definition. HUD asked Solutions to analyze the consequences of lowering the definition to 0.7, 0.5, 0.3, or 0.1 mg/cm2.

The project produced a statistical analysis of the programmatic, economic, and health considerations from a proposed regulatory change. It provided guidance on issues that state and local agencies and the private sector would face in complying with proposed EPA and HUD rules. To estimate the number of homes that could be impacted by changes in the definitions, the team conducted multivariate analyses of the American Healthy Homes Survey I database to determine the impact of different definitions of on the total number of homes nationally that might have lead-based paint hazards, the number of federally assisted housing units (organized by type of assistance) that could be affected, and the increased costs for each type of housing.

The project team identified four options for HUD to consider:

  1. Retain the existing definition;
  2. Set a new definition based on the current XRF analyzer detection limits;
  3. Use the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s definition of lead in new paint, which was considerably lower than the other options considered; or
  4. Create a new model for estimating lead-based paint risk.

Each was assessed according to its cost, impact on industry practices for lead hazard assessment and control, and feasibility of detection, assuming no significant changes in the capacity of XRF analyzers to detect results for each option.

The project team concluded that a change did not have compelling scientific support, that the current technology could not reliably measure at the lower levels, that costs to implement could increase dramatically for different types of assisted housing, and that more research was needed, including investigation of the use of the model developed as part of the research. Solutions also prepared a plain-language version of the executive summary for HUD’s use.