ST. LOUIS (AP) — Lowe's Home Centers has agreed to pay a $500,000 federal penalty in settling claims that its contractors in at least nine states broke environmental rules for addressing lead paint dust during home renovation projects, two federal agencies announced Thursday.
As part of the deal announced by the Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency, the North Carolina-based home improvement retailer also pledged to adopt a compliance program for dealing with lead paint during the renovation programs offered through its more than 1,700 stores.
The Justice Department's complaint and brokered deal with Lowe's, filed Thursday in federal court in East St. Louis, Ill., accused an unspecified number of Lowe's contractors of not following an EPA rule requiring them to use "lead-safe" practices when working on homes, day-care centers and schools built before 1978. That was the year lead paint was banned for residential use because of health risks.
The lawsuit also claimed contractors failed to adequately complete paperwork showing adherence to safe practices in dealing with lead paint in homes being renovated or repaired, and that the company failed to document that its contractors were properly trained or certified.
The Justice Department and EPA said Thursday's deal constituted some measure of environmental or social justice, noting that many pre-1978 homes are in urban areas commonly populated by minorities.
Lead paint can be especially harmful to children, given that high levels of exposure while their nervous systems are still developing can subject them to possible behavioral disorders and learning disabilities if not detected early. Lead exposure also can cause reproductive problems, high blood pressure, nervous disorders and memory problems in adults, as well as seizures and sometimes death.