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Detecting Lead Paint in Homes


Transcript of Maggie Theroux audio

Hi, I'm Maggie Theroux at EPA’s Office of Research and Development, and I'm the team leader for the lead paint action team. I’ve loved working on this project, and I’d like to tell you a little bit about it.

I first got involved in the fall of 2004.  When the Environmental Technology Council asked for ideas about issues that would benefit from new technology solutions, Regions 1 and 5 suggested lead paint poisoning. Those Regions, with their older housing stock, had the highest number of lead paint poisonings of all the Regions.  At the time I was working for Region 1, so I was well acquainted with EPA’s many years of work on this issue, and the Agency’s goal of eliminating lead paint poisonings by the year 2010. I was also aware that Ira Leighton, the Deputy Regional Administrator for Region 1, was deeply concerned about this intractable problem that primarily affected our environmental justice communities. Over the years I've known people whose children were poisoned by lead paint or dust and I am well aware of the devastating neurological effects of lead poisoning. So I was enthusiastic about leading a new Action Team to help solve this problem.

My approach to setting up the team was to recruit members from across the EPA offices and regions and other federal agencies that are concerned about lead paint. I also thought it was important for the team to use EPA’s tools to encourage technology development, such as the Small Business Innovation Research Program, which funds small businesses to do research, and the Environmental Technology Verification Program, which verifies the performance of technologies.

The original team started in October of 2004. At that time, we identified the need for new reliable, easy-to-use test kits. All the members of the team, especially those in the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics in EPA and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, also known as HUD, were very helpful in defining what we needed in terms of the new test kits and why they were necessary.

If I ask myself what really made this project successful, I’d say the passion and the persistence of the committed lead paint action team members, and especially Sharon Harper from EPA’s National Exposure Research Laboratory. She conducted crucial research on how to collect samples of lead paint and the extraction of the lead and then also the interferences of lead with other chemicals. Our collaboration with HUD was also important due to our team relationship and common goal. We were each able to fund a technology for full development, whereas if HUD had not been involved, we would only have been able to fund one technology through to commercialization, and because of their involvement we funded two. It was also a pleasure to work with two small businesses which care deeply about developing the latest generation of test kits.

The bottom line for this project is that the ETC Lead Paint Action Team was instrumental in getting the test kits developed. If the team had not been established in early October 2004, then nothing would have been done to encourage technology developers to create new test kits until the Renovation, Remodeling, and Painting Rule was released in the Federal Register in 2006. And two years would have been lost.

The next step for this is the verification of the lead paint test kits by the Environmental Technology Verification Program. By the end of 2010, EPA’s Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics will have reviewed the verification results and recognized those test kits that have passed the performance requirements.

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