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Lead Safe Tennessee


The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation has been awarded $4.5 million by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as part of a lead-based paint grant initiative to make improvements to impacted homes. TDEC’s Toxic Substances Program will administer the grant and will launch activities in partnership with several government and community organizations.

While there are approximately 4,000 potential homes identified in Davidson County, the grant funding is targeted for use in the North Nashville area for the next 3.5 years. North Nashville was chosen after meeting specific grant criteria including: number of rental properties, area income, children under the age of six, known lead blood issues in children and other statistical data.

The project estimates mitigating lead hazards in more than 242 residential units; conducting approximately 4,800 blood-lead tests of children less than six years of age; providing lead-safe training and job readiness opportunities to 545 eligible area residents; and increasing public awareness about childhood lead poisoning.

As part of the grant’s educational outreach requirement, the department will launch a local campaign in the North Nashville area. Marketing will consist of informational materials such as pamphlets and brochures, which will be placed in local churches, businesses and community organizations. Billboards also will be utilized throughout the community.

Environment and Conservation will be working with several community partners on this project, including:

  • Core Development Services - The downtown architectural and development firm
  • Tennessee Board of Regents - Regents Online Continuing Education / Nashville Tech Center - Designing online training and other resources.
  • Nashville Electric Service - Providing marketing and additional publicity through its monthly mailer, Power Notes.
  • Fifteenth Avenue Baptist Community Development Center - Responsible for recruiting potential employable trainees, among other resources.
  • Phase One Consultants - This accredited environmental consulting firm will provide actual hands-on training for lead-based paint hazard control.
  • University of Tennessee - Serving as overall grant evaluator, ensuring project objectives are met. In addition, UT will set up a lead-safe registry that will serve as a multi-agency, online database of lead-mitigated homes across the state.
  • Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development - Providing resources and marketing for the free lead-safe training and job readiness opportunities.
  • Rebuilding Together Nashville - The nation's leading nonprofit working to preserve affordable home ownership and revitalize communities.

Why Exposure to Lead-based Paint Hazard is a Concern?

The scientific literature has numerous studies and publications showing the adverse effects of lead poisoning on children six years of age and younger, whose bodies and nervous systems are still developing. Lead poisoning in children, even at low levels, can cause developmental problems, learning disabilities, impaired hearing and behavioral problems. The primary sources of lead exposure for children include deteriorating lead-based paint, lead contaminated dust and lead in residential soil.

While progress has been made in the U.S. since 1978 when an estimated 15 million children had elevated blood lead levels, today hundreds of thousands of children are still being permanently damaged for life by lead exposure. An unknown number of these hundreds of thousands of children are Tennesseans.

The most common form of lead exposure in young children comes from paint. Before the 1978, lead was a common element in house paint, and is still contained in some homes. Other sources include the inside of older plumbing pipes, which is then transferred into the drinking water. Soil can also be an exposure route, and often this is a result of lead paint seeping into the ground. Certain porcelain and ceramics, particularly antique dishes and toys can contain lead. If children place toys made of lead or painted with lead paint into their mouths, they can get lead poisoning. Lead dust from dried and scraped paint and lead emissions from certain machinery can also be exposure routes for humans.

Lead poisoning can affect nearly every system in the body. Because lead poisoning often occurs with no obvious symptoms, it frequently goes unrecognized. Lead is neurotoxin and particularly harmful to the developing nervous systems of fetuses and young children. Extremely high Blood Lead Levels (BLLs) (i.e., >70 µg/dL) can cause severe neurologic problems (e.g., seizure, coma, and death). However, no threshold has been determined regarding lead's harmful effects on children's learning and behavior. For more information on the health effects of lead exposure in children and screening guidelines link to the  Tennessee Department of Health Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, TN-CLPPP and Centers for Disease Control, CDC.

Why and How are Lead-based Paint Hazards Removed?

The use of lead-based paint in residential housing has been banned since 1978. Unfortunately an estimated 40% of all U.S. housing still has some lead-based paint. To provide a safe living environment in this 40%, especially for children, these homes should be made "lead safe." Tennessee's Lead-based Paint Abatement Rule requires that any work done to remove lead hazards be performed by a Tennessee certified lead abatement contractor firm using certified abatement workers following lead-safe work practices. The EPA's Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (RRP) requires that all work, other than abatement, that is done in a pre-1978 home be performed by an EPA certified RRP firm with the work overseen by a RRP Certified Renovator.

HUD & Lead Safe Housing Rule (LSHR) requires that all housing receiving federal assistance comply with LSHR.  HUD's specific requirements under LSHR depend on the amount of Federal rehabilitation assistance the project is receiving:

  • Up to $5,000 per unit: "Do No Harm" approach. Lead safety requirements cover only the surfaces being disturbed.  Training that meets EPAS’s RRP Rule requirements is sufficient for this work.
  • Greater than $5,000 and up to $25,000 per unit: Identify and control all lead hazards. Control the hazards using interim controls.  Training must meet EPA's RRP Rule requirements and HUD-approved interim control training for renovators and workers.
  • Greater than $25,000 per unit: Identify and abate all lead hazards.  This approach requires certified lead-based paint abatement contractors perform the abatement part of the job.

HUD’s Office of Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control provides information on complying with the LSHR and RRP.

Continuing Education Online

Lead Abatement Worker Refresher Course - Available January 20, 2014

This course is designed to give worker refresher training on how to abate lead-based paint hazards safely.

Outreach and Education