Five years ago Tamara Rubin got devastating news: Blood tests showed her sons AJ and Avi had lead poisoning. The diagnosis came after a contractor had removed lead paint from the outside of her Portland home.

We were horrified because we thought we had hired a painter that was doing the right thing, she said.

She says her boys now show signs of learning disabilities and, she fears, brain damage.

I don't know what their future is going to be like, she said.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency just started requiring home remodeling contractors be safety certified to work in a home where a woman is pregnant or there are kids under the age of six. The certification shows they know how to safely remove lead paint and contain the dust.

These regulations are absolutely critical for the health of children nationwide. They will protect more than a million children just in the first year alone, said Rebecca Morley, Executive Director National Center for Healthy Housing.

But in calls made randomly to more than a dozen painters across the country, not one brought up the new requirements.

It's alarming that so many contractors are unaware of the new requirements, said Morley.

How do you know if your home has lead paint? If it was built before 1978, when lead paint was outlawed, it could. There are lead paint test kits available at hardware stores.

Tamara worries her children may have lifelong problems as a result of the lead paint poisoning and urges other parents to make sure contractors are certified.

Certification is not required if lead paint is only going to be painted over. If there is any removal, no matter how small the area, the contractor must be safety certified.

Tamara moved out of her house and has started a website on the issue.

More information

The new rule requires any contractor that alters or sands or exposes lead paint during a project be safety certified by the US Environmental Protection Agency. The rule applies to any residential property built before 1978. The rule also applies to any public building or commercial building built before 1978 where children under the age of six are present, or could potentially be present, on a regular basis. This includes child care centers, schools and hospitals. The rule applies to any modification made to applicable structures that disturbs six square feet or more of interior painted surface per room as well as exterior work which disturbs more than 20 square feet of painted surface.

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