Lead Rules Basics
This module provides general information that applies across all lead-based paint regulations and activities. Practitioners who are new to lead-based paint may want to review these basics before reviewing information on their specific lead activity.
What is lead?
Lead is a naturally occurring element used for centuries in paint, gasoline, ceramics, metal goods, and more. It is found in all parts of our environment including dust, paint, air, soil, and water.
How is it harmful?
Lead can be ingested or inhaled, and even small amounts are harmful to all body systems — especially brains and nervous systems — and especially dangerous for children whose bodies and brains are still developing. There is no safe level of lead in the blood. Both adults and children are affected by deteriorating lead-based paint in their own homes. Dry sanding and/or burning paint from hard-to-reach surfaces is particularly dangerous.
How is lead-based paint regulated?
The Consumer Product Safety Commission banned the use of lead in house paint in 1978. Prior to 1978, lead-based paint was commonly used in homes; the older the home, the higher the concentration of lead in the paint. Since 1991, federal laws and regulations have been developed to protect families from lead in their homes. HUD is the principal source for guidance for families, owners, housing programs, and workers, in federally assisted housing programs and projects.
Abbreviations and Definitions
There are many abbreviations and definitions used while discussing lead. The most common are:
- Lead-based paint (LBP)
- Lead Safe Housing Rule (LSHR)
- Elevated Blood Lead Level (EBLL)
There are many parties involved in achieving and maintaining compliance with the lead regulations. Here are a few you may hear about:
- The agency typically funding the activity is a participating jurisdiction (PJ), Public Housing Authority (PHA), or a grantee.
- Staff who may work with the lead regulations are program administrators, property owners, property managers, maintenance staff, contractors, and compliance staff.
- The person responsible for the housing unit is a homeowner or owner of rental unit(s).
- The Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes (OLHCHH) at HUD sets policy and works with HUD Field Offices to implement requirements.
All work that disturbs paint must meet protective standards. Hazard reduction using lead-safe work practices and containment eliminates the possibility of exposure to dust and debris from lead-based paint. During hazard reduction work, take steps to protect residents and workers. At the end of work, the residence must be tested for any presence of lead in dust. Soil and exterior surfaces are included. Learn more in the Hazard Reduction Module.
In some activities, additional steps are required if an occupant child under age 6 has a verified EBLL. Learn more in Respond to a Child with an EBLL.
Records document LBP and its removal must be kept for at least three years. Many HUD programs require a longer recordkeeping period. Learn more about the specific requirements in the subpart modules.
The LSHR is divided into subparts. The applicable subpart is based upon the activity being funded. When there are multiple activities, the most protective subpart applies. When the LSHR applies to a project, it is likely that the EPA’s Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP) Rule also applies. If you are not sure which applies to you, view Which Subpart Do I Use?
In addition to the modules, view more information about the federal lead regulations: