US EPA Proposes to Strengthen Dust-Lead Standards

News & Events

July 20, 2023

US EPA proposes that any detectable amount of lead in indoor dust poses a hazard and tightens requirements for lead-abatement activities for most pre-1978 housing and child-occupied facilities.

On July 12, US EPA proposed changes to the dust-lead hazard standard (DLHS) and dust-lead clearance level (DLCL) under section 402 of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  These proposed changes would revise the DLHS, which identifies potentially hazardous concentrations of lead in indoor dust for pre-1978 housing or childcare facilities, to 0 μg/ft2, meaning that any amount of lead detected on floors or window sills would exceed the standard.  In addition, the DLCL, which is the acceptable amount of lead that can remain in indoor dust following abatement activities, would be lowered to 3 μg/ft2 (floors), 20 μg/ft2 (window sills), and 25 μg/ft2 (window troughs).  A summary of how the proposed changes compare to current dust-lead standards is presented below:

Proposed Changes to Dust-Lead Standards

Note: μg/ft2 = Micrograms of Lead Per Square Foot.
(a) As analyzed by any laboratory recognized by US EPA’s National Lead Laboratory Accreditation Program.

Historically, the DLHS and DLCL have been set at the same level; however, in response to a May 2021 court decision, the DLHS was revised to be based solely on health factors, whereas the DLCL can incorporate additional factors (e.g., safety, effectiveness, and reliability).  The proposed changes represent the first time these dust-lead standards will be set at different levels.  In lowering the DLHS to 0 μg/ft2, the US EPA stated in the proposed rule that “[t]here is no evidence of a threshold below which there are not harmful effects from lead exposure, including neurobehavioral and cognitive effects on children.”

The implementation of the 0 μg/ft2 DLHS is unclear.  US EPA noted that the DLHS does not “compel property owners or occupants to evaluate their property for lead-based paint (LBP) hazards nor take control actions.”  However, if a lead-abatement activity is performed, then it would be required to meet the DLCLs set forth in the proposed rule.

According to the US EPA, the proposed rule has the potential to impact those in building construction, real estate, child daycare services, elementary and secondary schools, lead abatement, and testing laboratories, among other entities.  The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (US HUD) estimates that over 30 million US homes contain lead-based paint.

The proposed rule is still in pre-publication; when it is published in the Federal Register via docket (EPA-HQ-OPPT-2023-0231), US EPA will accept public comments for 60 days.  If finalized, the updated DLCLs would go into effect one year after publication of the final rule.

If you have any questions about the proposed dust-lead standards or their implications, please feel free to contact:

Steven Boomhower, Ph.D.
Senior Toxicologist

Rosemary Mattuck, M.S.
Senior Environmental Engineer

Lisa Bailey, Ph.D.