- WEB EXCLUSIVE
- PE COFFEEHAUS
The EPA's long-awaited new lead standards were announced this morning, tightening the allowable lead level to one tenth of its previous level.
This decision marks the first time the lead standards have changed in 30 years. EPA strengthened the standards after a thorough review of the science on lead, advice from the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, and consideration of public comments. The previous standards, set in 1978, were 1.5 µg/m.
The new National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for lead is near the lower end of the range the agency was considering. At a public hearing in June, the EPA took comments on a proposed range between 0.10 and 0.30 µg/m3 and noted its willingness to consider a level as high as 0.50 µg/m3. The agency in June also considered separate standards for "public health" and "public welfare," taken to mean other environmental considerations. The final standard does not make this distinction.
The agency noted that it believes the existing monitoring network for lead is not sufficient to determine whether many areas of the country would meet the revised standards. The EPA said it has already begun work toward redesigning the nation's lead monitoring network.
No later than October 2011, EPA will designate areas that must take additional steps to reduce lead air emissions. States will have five years to meet these new standards after designations take effect.
More than 6,000 studies since 1990 have examined the effects of lead on health and the environment. Some studies have linked exposure to low levels of lead with damage to children's development, including IQ loss, according to an agency release. The EPA also noted that lead emissions have dropped nearly 97 percent nationwide since 1980, largely the result of the agency's phase-out of lead in gasoline.