EPA Launches Efforts to Reduce Lead Exposure in Underserved Communities

In September, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its new training initiative, Enhancing Lead-Safe Work Practices Through Education and Outreach (ELSWPEO). This initiative, part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to advancing environmental justice, aims to raise awareness about childhood lead exposure and protect underserved and overburdened communities from lead exposure.

Many buildings built before 1978 contain lead-based paint. When this paint is disturbed, it can release toxic lead dust, which can prove dangerous and is particularly harmful to young children. Lead exposure disproportionally affects low-income families and communities, as they’re often the individuals living in older buildings.

Michael Freedhoff, Assistant Administrator for the EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, says that “Underserved communities are still dealing with the hazards of lead exposure. These trainings have a dual purpose of increasing economic opportunities and expanding the understanding of lead’s potential impacts on children’s health.”

Two Goals of ELSWPEO

The ELSWPEO initiative has a two-pronged approach. They are:

  • Lead Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP) training. The EPA will provide free trainings in English and Spanish for contractors working in certain communities. The training will allow the contractors to become RRP certified, since anyone who is paid to perform work that disturbs paint in pre-1978 housing must be certified.
  • Lead awareness curriculum for community leaders. The EPA will provide educational sessions in English (with Spanish interpretation) that is designed to equip community leaders with tools and resources necessary to educate their communities about lead and the dangers it poses. The curriculum is a series of four models that includes things like lesson plans, worksheets, key messages, presentations, and kids’ activity sheets.

The goal of these two approaches is to increase awareness of the potential dangers of lead exposure and to increase actions that can be taken to reduce lead exposure, including the availability of RRP-certified contractors in traditionally underserved communities.

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