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Research to Move Toward Evidence-Based Recommendations for Lead Service Line Disclosure Policies in Home Buying and Home Renting Scenarios

March 18, 2019

Lead service lines (LSLs)—lead pipes connecting the water main under the street to a building's plumbing—contribute an estimated 50% to 75% of lead in tap water when they are present. Although Congress banned lead in plumbing materials in 1986, over 6 million LSLs remain in homes across the United States today. This paper summarizes three different home buying or renting scenario-based experimental studies used to evaluate disclosure styles, to assess if these influenced respondents' perceived risk of the LSL in a home, and their willingness to act. In renting scenarios, having landlords disclose the presence of an LSL, but also provide water test results showing lead levels below the EPA's lead action level resulted in lower levels of perceived risk, and of willingness to act. In seller-disclosure home buying scenarios, levels of perceived risk and willingness to act were consistently high, and three different disclosure styles did not differentially influence those outcomes. In home inspector-disclosure home buying scenarios, levels of perceived risk and willingness to act were high, but having explicit recommendations to replace LSLs and/or information about risk did not further influence those outcomes. In some cases, including the specific recommendations backfired. Implications for policy and regulation are discussed.