The Environmental Protection Agency told WSB that it is pursuing a criminal and civil investigation of Home Depot’s actions. The U.S. Department of Justice also said it is investigating. Separately, the Occupational, Safety and Health Administration told WSB that it had fined the company for actions by its contractors in Colorado.
Home Depot uses contractors for most in-home work. The company has said its vets those contractors, and is generally responsible for them.
Scientific research has shown that lead-based paint is dangerous, and that ingesting it can severely damage brain development and harm health in general. The effect is especially intense for children.
Several cases involving Home Depot came in homes where young children lived. In an Augusta, Maine, case, a toddler’s fingerprints were seen imprinted in dust from paint removal that had drifted into the child’s crib, WSB reported. The child’s mother was pregnant at the time.
Virtually all construction after 1978 was required to avoid lead-based paint. The standards for handling and removing that paint have been in place since 2010. They are generally aimed at minimizing and containing dust or paint chips.
A Georgia Tech-trained expert in paint removal told WSB that a contractor might save money by cutting corners on the removal.
The Home Depot division that hires contractors that handle installations accounts for 4 percent of its nearly $90 billion business, but the removal work itself represents just a fraction of that 4 percent, Holmes said.