Home Depot fined $20 million in lead paint investigation

Home Depot fined $20 million in lead paint investigation
A woman's fiance snapped this picture of what he says are Home Depot contractors replacing windows in their home, which has lead-based paint, without masks or any special equipment. OSHA later fined the contractor and Home Depot.

Atlanta-based Home Depot reached a settlement with two federal agencies, agreeing to pay a $20.75 million fine because contractors used by the home improvement giant failed to properly handle lead paint in customer’s homes.

Channel 2 Action News spent months in 2016 and 2017 investigating allegations of questionable business practices by Home Depot, which have led to civil and criminal investigations.

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Thursday’s fine is the largest proposed penalty in United States history under the Toxic Substances Control Act.

“Today’s settlement will significantly reduce children’s exposure to lead paint hazards,” said Susan Bodine, Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.

“Home Depot will implement system-wide changes to ensure that contractors who perform work in homes constructed before 1978 are EPA-certified and follow lead-safe practices. EPA expects all renovation companies to ensure their contractors follow these critical laws that protect public health.”

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Huddleston got a tip in 2016 that Home Depot contractors were cutting corners and spreading dust and paint chips while renovating homes.

Lucius Miles is one of the homeowners he talked to at a home in Connecticut in 2017. Miles says contractors promised to clean up the lead paint properly.

“They would lay plastic down to catch all the lead and each day they would clean up after themselves,” Miles said contractors promised, but never delivered.

The Channel 2 Action News investigation found similar problems across the country, but mostly in New England. One family in Maine told Huddleston workers left lead paint dust on furniture. A baby’s fingerprints could be seen in the residue.

Lead-based paint use was banned in 1978 but still remains in many older homes and apartments across the country. Lead exposure can cause a range of health problems, from behavioral disorders and learning disabilities to seizures and death, putting young children at the greatest risk because their nervous systems are still developing.

It’s not clear where the $20 million will go, but there’s no mention any of it will go to victims.

Home Depot said in a statement, “These instances do not represent our high standards and expectations. When we found out about this, we moved quickly to contact all customers who might have been impacted and we significantly strengthened our lead safety systems and approach.”

Home Depot under investigation for work that may have put families in danger