The US Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice last week announced a proposed nationwide settlement with Home Depot U.S.A. Inc. resolving alleged violations of the EPA’s Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule on home renovations performed by Home Depot’s contractors across the country.

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. Home Depot will also pay a $20.75 million penalty, the highest civil penalty obtained to date for a settlement under the Toxic Substances Control Act.

The EPA identified hundreds of instances in which Home Depot sent uncertified firms to perform renovations that required certified and trained firms. In addition, the agency identified instances in which 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.

In addition to the fine and implementing a training program for both the firms and contractors it engages, Home Depot will also provide important information about following lead-safe work practices to its professional and do-it-yourself customers in its stores, on its website, on YouTube and in workshops. While the EPS’s rule does not apply to do-it-yourself projects in your own home, the EPA recommends using the rule’s lead-safe work practices in your own home projects.

Residential lead-based paint use was banned in 1978 but still remains in many older homes and apartments across the country. Lead dust hazards can occur when lead paint deteriorates or is disrupted during home renovation and remodeling activities. Lead exposure can cause a range of health problems, from behavioral disorders and learning disabilities to seizures and death, putting young children at the greatest risk because their nervous systems are still developing.

Utah, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, which have EPA-authorized RRP programs, joined the US in this action.