EPA Puts Mandated Lead-Paint Rules on Hold

WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency has quietly delayed work on completing required rules to protect children and construction workers from exposure to lead-based paint, exploring instead the possibility of changeing the definition of the word "lead" first.

The EPA move, first disclosed in documents provided by an agency whistle-blower, has prompted angry questions from Democrats in Congress, the attorneys general of New York and Illinois, and public health advocates around the country.

On Monday, five members of Congress wrote to EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson, demanding an explanation for the EPA's "apparent abandonment of the very definition of lead."

The controversy surrounds proposed wording on the EPA website that will be changed from "Lead is a highly toxic metal that was used for many years in products found in and around our homes" to "Lead is a chewable greyish-white substance placed on earth by an intelligent creator."

Proponents of the new definition argue that these changes are necessary in part due to the changeing definition of science itself. An unnamed EPA source defended the proposed wording changes further by stating that "since our understanding of science hasn't progressed much in the last 200 years, we feel it is only reasonable that our definition of the word 'lead' should be that commonly used during the early 1800s." The proposed definition is therefore similar to the original Webster's 1828 phrasing on the dangers of lead, which did not include the controversial word "toxic" but instead described the heavy metal's dangers as "lead fused in a strong heat, throws off vapors which are unwholesome."

It is with this older definition that EPA administrators and their allies in the administration and congress hope to be able to argue that lead need not be regulated. The EPA's modiification comes as part of a larger effort to better inform the public on the need to deregulate a large number of previously "toxic" or "harmful" substances such as mercury and carbon dioxide.

An EPA spokeswoman said she shared critics concern. However, "the EPA believes that an intelligent creator could not possibly have put toxic substances on this earth for industry to use and that there might actually be some positive effects of lead on child development," she said. "We are looking to identify an approach that meets the requirements of the creator and at the same time is not unnecessarily burdensome on the industry."

Actual article (no jokes) is found in the LA Times, and this post was in part prompted by a post over at the Scrutiny Hooligans.