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Home Depot will pay a $20,750,000 fine for violating lead paint safety regulations under a settlement reached Thursday with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).

“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, in a joint statement issued Thursday by the two agencies.

“We commend federal regulators for taking action on this important issue,” said Lyn Redwood, president of Children’s Health Defense. “Studies show that lead is especially toxic to children at very low levels contributing to lower IQ, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and a multitude of learning and behavioral disabilities that have become epidemic in children.”

The use of lead-based paint was banned in 1977, under the Consumer Products Safety Act, after experts discovered it can cause a variety of health problems, especially in young children.

Under current law, contractors hired for most work in homes built before 1978 must be certified in lead safety to avoid spreading dust and paint chips. The EPA and DOJ allege that Home Depot sent unqualified contractors into hundreds of consumers’ homes to work on projects that potentially disturbed lead paint.

The DOJ said Home Depot’s violations, which the agency described as “serious,” were discovered as a result of investigations into five customer complaints about Home Depot renovations in Illinois, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The investigations revealed that Home Depot subcontracted work to firms that in some cases did not use lead-safe work practices, did not perform required post-renovation cleaning, did not provide the EPA-required lead-based paint pamphlets to occupants, or didn’t maintain records of compliance with the law.

In addition to paying the fine, Home Depot will be required to implement system-wide changes to ensure that contractors who perform work in homes constructed before 1978 are EPA-certified and follow lead-safe practices.