Home Depot will pay $20.75 million under a proposed settlement after its contractors in states across the country allegedly failed to take proper steps to reduce the spread of lead dust and paint chips during renovations, the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Justice announced Thursday.
In addition to the fine, the settlement requires Home Depot to implement a comprehensive, corporate-wide program to ensure that the firms and contractors it hires to perform work are certified and trained to use lead-safe work practices to avoid spreading lead dust and paint chips during home renovation activities.
“These were serious violations. The stiff penalty Home Depot will pay reflects the importance of using certified firms and contractors in older home renovations,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jonathan D. Brightbill of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “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 alleged violations were uncovered when the EPA investigated customer complaints in Illinois, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The investigation showed Home Depot subcontracted work to firms that in some cases did not use lead-safe work practices, perform required post-renovation cleaning, provide the EPA-required lead-based paint pamphlets to occupants, or maintain records of compliance with the law.
A subsequent nationwide review of Home Depot’s renovations uncovered hundreds of instances in which the company used uncertified companies to perform renovations. FDA also found Home Depot failed to establish, retain, or provide compliance documentation showing that specific contractors had been certified by EPA, had been properly trained, and had used lead-safe work practices in projects performed in homes.
Lead-based paint use was banned in homes in 1978 but still remains in many older homes and apartments across the country. Exposure to lead can cause a health problems including behavioral disorders and learning disabilities to seizures and death.
“Today’s settlement will significantly reduce children’s exposure to lead paint hazards,” said Susan Bodine, Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Home Depot will implement system-wide changes to ensure that contractors who perform work in homes constructed before 1978 are EPA-certified and follow lead-safe practices. EPA expects all renovation companies to ensure their contractors follow these critical laws that protect public health.”
On Thursday, Home Depot posted a story on its website about the company’s “commitment to lead safety,” though did not address the settlement.
“The Home Depot is committed to lead safety and safe work practices for our associates, partners, and customers,” the company said. “That’s why the company expects all installers to not only do a great job, but also safely complete their work while following the required protocols and legal requirements, including lead safety.”
Home Depot said it’s three-pronged approach to lead safety includes requirements for installers, proprietary monitoring technology and customer education. Learn more here.