(Adds response from company, background on lead dangers,
updates share price)
By Julia Edwards
WASHINGTON, April 17 Lowe's Home Centers
, the No. 2 U.S. home improvement retail chain, has
agreed to pay a $500,000 penalty for violating federal rules
governing lead paint exposure, U.S. authorities said on
The Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of
Justice said Lowe's had also agreed to implement a new
compliance program at more than 1,700 stores nationwide.
Lead exposure can cause a range of health problems, from
behavioral disorders and learning disabilities to seizures and
death. Young children are at the greatest risk because their
nervous systems are still developing.
Lead-based paint was banned in the United States in 1978 but
remains in many older homes and apartments. Dust hazards can
occur when the paint deteriorates or is disrupted during home
renovation and remodeling.
An EPA investigation found that Lowe's could not provide
documentation to prove that contractors it hired to work at 13
stores across nine states were certified by the agency, or had
used its approved kits to test for lead paint at work sites, the
"Today's settlement sends a clear message to all contractors
and the firms they hire: Get lead certified and comply with the
law to protect children from exposure to dangerous lead dust,"
said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for the EPA's Office
of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.
In a statement Lowe's said it "has had an aggressive
lead-based paint renovation compliance program in place since
the EPA's Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule went into
effect" and that there had been no reports of lead-based paint
health issues associated with projects completed by its
Lowe's shares were up nearly 0.3 percent at $46.85 in
afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
(Additional reporting by Valerie Volcovici and Aruna Viswanatha
in Washington and Phil Wahba in New York; Editing by Ros Krasny,
Will Dunham and James Dalgleish)