ATLANTA - A major home improvement chain is under criminal investigation and Channel 2 Action News has learned the company may have exposed up to 400,000 customers to dangerous levels of lead not only here in Georgia, but across the country.
Channel 2 Action News spent months investigating allegations of questionable business practices by Atlanta-based Home Depot, which led to civil and criminal investigations.
Channel 2’s Dave Huddleston uncovered numerous customer complaints about how Home Depot handles lead-based paint removal projects.
A Home Depot employee who works in the company’s Cobb County corporate office told Huddleston that thousands of customers have no idea that the workers who come to your house may have exposed entire families to dangerous lead.
"I just want to see things done the right way," the employee told Huddleston, asking not to be identified.
The employee said they want to blow the whistle on what they say is Home Depot’s internal culture of profits over people.
"I think it's a nationwide problem," the employee said.
The employee told Huddleston that across the country, including in Georgia, thousands of customers have been exposed to dangerous lead from contractors who don't follow strict federal rules.
“The numbers can range from 25,000 to about 400,000," the employee told Huddleston.
For three months, Channel 2 Action News investigated cases where families hired Home Depot for repairs but said the workers exposed them to lead-based paint.
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The family at one home Huddleston visited said Home Depot workers replaced windows but didn't follow federal rules, exposing a pregnant mother and toddler.
Bob Rickett was hired to clean up the work.
"My heart broke," Rickett said. "You could see the fingerprints of the kid inside the crib in the dust that was generated from the work that was done."
The U.S. Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency have criminal and civil investigations into Home Depot for not following lead safe practices.
Home Depot sent Huddleston a statement saying: "We're fully committed to following Lead Safe Work Practices, and all regulations, regardless of their impact on sales. If anyone believes otherwise, there are multiple ways they can report their concerns anonymously, and we will address any problem that might exist."
Home Depot also said they are cooperating with the federal criminal and civil investigations.
Huddleston has been contacted by about a half dozen Home Depot employees, some in the corporate office, who also say the culture within the company is sales first, compliance second.
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