For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 

Sarah Mier, Friends of the Earth, 202-222-0752,
Marcie Keever, Friends of the Earth, 415-544-0790 x 223,
Deborah Behles, Environmental Law & Justice Clinic at Golden Gate University School of Law, 415-369-5336,

EPA Designates 16 Areas in Violation of Airborne Lead Standards

Findings reinforce need for immediate EPA action on lead in aviation fuel, the leading cause of airborne lead emissions

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently identified 16 regions in the United States that fail to meet clean air standards for airborne lead emissions. The finding underscores the need for immediate action by the EPA to control lead emissions from aviation fuel, the largest source of lead emissions in the U.S.

While the EPA has consistently acknowledged that lead emissions are a public health threat, it has delayed making the official endangerment finding needed to trigger regulation.

“The EPA is moving much too slowly on this critical public health issue,” said Marcie Keever, legal director for Friends of the Earth. “The EPA has more than sufficient information to conclude that lead from aviation fuel endangers public health. The recent findings of clean air violations reinforce our concerns: Fifteen of the sixteen areas declared to have unsafe levels of lead in air are in counties that contain at least one airport where lead is emitted.”   

Friends of the Earth, represented by the Environmental Law and Justice Clinic at Golden Gate University School of Law, filed a petition in 2006 urging the EPA to phase out lead in aviation fuel to protect human health and the environment. The group first pushed the EPA to address the danger lead in aviation fuel poses to public health in 2003.

Lead is a harmful and toxic chemical that can cause brain damage, reduced IQ levels, increased blood pressure, and nerve damage. No amount of lead exposure is safe.



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Leaded aviation fuel is primarily used in piston engine aircraft, which typically fly in and out of small and municipal airports. The EPA has found that communities living near airports, children attending school near airports, and airplane pilots, student-trainees, and passengers are all at risk of exposure to lead emissions from these aircraft. The EPA also noted potential harm from deposits of lead that collect on plants in agricultural areas where piston engine planes are used.

“It has been more than 14 years since the EPA required the complete phase-out of lead in gasoline for cars and Friends of the Earth will stay on the case until the EPA develops a strong emissions standard for lead in aviation fuel,” Keever added.

More information about the EPA’s findings of airborne lead violations is available here:

You can view Friends of the Earth’s 2006 petition to the EPA here:

More information about the dangers of lead in aviation fuel is available here:


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Friends of the Earth is the U.S. voice of the world's largest grassroots environmental network, with member groups in 77 countries. Since 1969, Friends of the Earth has fought to create a more healthy, just world.

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