Lawsuit Calls on EPA to Clean Up Lead Air Pollution Across United States

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Jonathan Evans, Center for Biological Diversity, (213) 598-1466
Caroline Cox, Center for Environmental Health, (541) 654-2626

Lawsuit Calls on EPA to Clean Up Lead Air Pollution Across United States

SAN FRANCISCO - Environmental and public-health groups filed a lawsuit today challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s failure to ensure that people across the country are protected from dangerous lead pollution in the air. The Clean Air Act requires that states must have approved plans in place to reduce lead pollution; at least six states and Puerto Rico have failed to meet that standard.

In 2008 the EPA revised 30-year-old air standards for lead, lowering allowable airborne lead levels by 90 percent to protect health and environmental quality. Under the Clean Air Act, the agency had three years to ensure that all 50 states submitted effective plans to meet the new standards; but six states and Puerto Rico do not have approved plans, and the EPA has failed to keep critically important lead reductions on track. The states are Florida, Iowa, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio and Texas.

Today’s lawsuit is aimed at spurring the EPA to require that states have adequate plans that will cut lead pollution.

“There’s no safe level of lead in our air, because lead’s highly toxic to wildlife and people — especially children,” said Jonathan Evans, toxics and endangered species campaign director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The EPA must take decisive action to force polluting facilities to reduce or eliminate the lead pollution contaminating our communities and our environment.”

The Clean Air Act requires the agency to identify and set “National Ambient Air Quality Standards” for harmful pollutants such as lead, a neurotoxin that causes a wide range of severe health problems and reduces young children’s IQs. Since the phaseout of leaded automobile gasoline, most airborne lead emissions come from lead smelters, waste incinerators, utilities, lead-acid battery makers and leaded aviation fuel.

“Children and families living near polluting facilities must be protected from airborne lead poisoning threats,” said Caroline Cox, research director for the Center for Environmental Health. “Clearly we can't rely on industry to clean up its act without oversight. EPA must act now to enforce the law and end this serious health threat to children.”

Lead is an extremely toxic element that threatens the health of children disproportionately. It disrupts their development, causing slow growth, development defects and damage to the brain and nervous system; it does not break down in the environment. Ecosystems near lead sources experience decreases in biodiversity and ecosystem production and increases in invasive species. Many scientific studies have also expressed concern about sublethal effects of atmospheric lead on wildlife.

For more on the dangers of lead click here.

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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