Home Depot To Pay $20M To Settle Lead Paint Allegations

As part of a settlement reached to resolve claims brought by the U.S. Justice Department and several states, Home Depot has agreed to pay $20 million over the alleged mishandling of lead-based paint in older homes, which could expose children to a risk of lead poisoning.

On December 17, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a press release announcing it had reached a consent decree with Home Depot over violations of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule, known more commonly as the RRP Rules.

The RRP rules requires any company performing renovation, repair or painting projects that could disturb lead-based paint in homes or facilities occupied by children to first get approval from the EPA or an EPA-authorized tribal program. These renovations must ensure proper disclosure, proper record keeping, and specific practices designed to prevent lead contamination.

Learn More About Lead Poisoning lawsuits

Children diagnosed with lead poisoning after exposure to peeling or chipping lead paint in a rental home may be entitled to financial compensation and benefits.

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The charges against Home Depot were brought after consumer complaints in Illinois, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin indicated the company’s contractors were not conducting lead-safe work practices, and were not conducting post-renovation cleaning as required by the EPA.

This led to an EPA investigation which resulted in the charges against Home Depot.

“These were serious violations. The stiff penalty Home Depot will pay reflects the importance of using certified firms and contractors in older home renovations,” Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jonathan D. Brightbill, of the Justice Department’s Environmental and Natural Resources Division, said in the press release. “Contractors hired for most work in homes built prior to 1978, when lead based paint was in widespread use, must be certified. These contractors have the training to recognize and prevent the hazards that can be created when lead paint is disturbed.”

The consent decree requires Home Depot to pay a $20.75 million penalty, which the Justice Department says is the “highest civil penalty obtained to date for a settlement under the Toxic Substances Control Act.” That payment will include a $75,000 payment to Utah, a $732,000 payment to Massachusetts, and a $50,000 payment to Rhode Island; all of whom joined the Justice Department in its complaint.

In addition, Home Depot will provide customers involved in the most serious allegations with inspections by certified professionals, as well as specialized cleaning and verification if necessary.

The Justice Department is taking public comment on the Home Depot consent decree for 30 days following the December 17 press release, which can be submitted at www.justice.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html.

Lead Paint Risks

Lead paint poisoning is considered one of the most preventable environmental disease among young children, which may result in severe brain injury, seizures, developmental problems, mental disabilities and other life-long complications.

Exposure to lead is often traced back to older homes and apartments that have chipping or pealing lead paint, which young children may purposefully or accidentally ingest. Therefore, in recent decades, health officials have focused on the importance of rehabilitating those rentals and homes to prevent childhood lead exposure.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 535,000 children ages 1-5, or about 2.6% of such children in the U.S., have levels of lead in their blood that place them at risk for adverse health effects. To come up with that number, the CDC analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from the years 1999 to 2002, and 2007 through 2010.

Childhood lead poisoning is considered the most preventable environmental disease among young children. More than half a million children in the U.S, have lead blood levels above 5 micrograms per deciliter, the “level of concern” reference set by the CDC.

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