New EPA Lead Standard Significantly Improved to Protect Kids’ Health

For Immediate Release

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF)

John Balbus, 202-572-3316 or 301-908-8186 (cell)

New EPA Lead Standard Significantly Improved to Protect Kids’ Health

But EPA Children's Health Protection Advisory Committee Member Says EPA Analysis Justified Even Better Standard

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken a significant step
to protect the health of children by strengthening the nation's air
quality standard for lead today, according to Environmental Defense

EPA's own analysis justifies an even lower lead standard, this tenfold
reduction will go a long way to protecting children most at risk from
airborne lead," said Environmental Defense Fund Chief Health Scientist Dr. John Balbus,
a member of the EPA Children's Health Protection Advisory Committee.
"It's refreshing to see the agency follow the science and the advice of
its experts in making this decision."

new standard for lead in the air, 0.15 micrograms per cubic meter
(µg/m3), is a tenfold reduction from the current standard of 1.5 µg/m3
and is within the range recommended to the EPA by its science
advisors. The current standard dates back to 1978, a time when leaded
gasoline was widely used in automobiles and children's average blood
lead levels were seven times higher than today. Most importantly, in
1978, the serious effects of low level lead exposure on children were
not yet well understood.  

is a potent neurotoxin that interferes with children's brain
development and worsens performance on IQ tests. EPA's analysis has
shown that to prevent a measureable decrease in IQ for the most
vulnerable children in the country, the lead standard would need to be
set as low as 0.02 µg/m3. In addition to strong evidence for harm to
children's neurological development at low levels, new science
indicates that lead exposures throughout life can increase risks of
cardiovascular illness and mortality.  

in this final decision, EPA has chosen lead in Total Suspended
Particulates (TSP) as the main indicator and the highest three month
rolling average over three years as the form of the standard for
monitoring and compliance. Because TSP captures more of the total
available lead in the air than the alternative indicator under
consideration, Particulate Matter less than 10 microns in diameter
(PM10), it provides greater protection for a given level of the

lead concentrations in the air have declined, scientific studies have
demonstrated that children's neurological development is harmed by much
lower levels of lead exposure than previously understood. Low level
lead exposure has been clearly linked to loss of IQ in performance
testing. Even an average IQ loss of 1-2 points in children has a
meaningful impact for the nation as a whole, as it would result in an
increase in children classified as mentally challenged, as well as a
proportional decrease in the number of children considered "gifted." 

1978, regulations and advances in technology have nearly eliminated the
use of lead in fuels and paints, resulting in significant decreases in
ambient concentrations of lead in air. For many children, lead that is
still present in house paints and urban dusts from the time when lead
was widely used is the main source of lead exposure. The current
standard will only partially address this problem of "legacy" lead;
other EPA programs need to address ongoing children's exposure from
house paint and urban dusts.  

present, lead smelters, especially the nation's sole primary lead
smelter in Jefferson County, Missouri, are the largest sources of lead
emissions in communities. Other significant sources include airplane
fuels, military installations, mining and metal smelting, iron and
steel manufacturing, industrial boilers and process heaters, hazardous
waste incineration, and battery manufacture.


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