Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Get The Lead Out

EPA Plans to Restrict Toxic Airborne Lead

Environment News Service:

For the first time in 30 years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to further reduce the amount of lead in the air.

While leaded gasoline is history, about 1,300 tons of lead a year is emitted into the air from smelters, iron and steel foundries, and general aviation gasoline, the EPA estimates.

Once it is airborne, lead can be inhaled.

Or, after it settles out of the air onto surfaces, lead can be ingested - the main route of human exposure. Once in the body, lead is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream and can affect many organ systems.

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Children are particularly vulnerable, the EPA has said repeatedly. Exposures to low levels of lead early in life have been linked to effects on intelligence, learning, memory and behavior.

To protect public health, the EPA proposed Thursday to tighten the primary standard by up to 93 percent.

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Under the new rule, monitors for lead would be required near large sources of lead emissions and in urban areas with more than one million people.

Some environmentalists say the new EPA lead standard is not strict enough. Avinash Kar, project attorney with the public health program of the Natural Resources Defense Council called the proposal "long overdue but flawed."

"According to EPA projections, emissions of 60 pounds of lead from a single pollution source could cause a median loss of up to three IQ points in children," said Kar. "Thousands of children across the United States live near lead plants emitting more than 60 pounds of lead every year. In fact, some plants emit tons of lead annually."

"By proposing a limit stricter than the current standard that was set in 1978, EPA is making progress in limiting lead exposure," he said, "but this standard still falls short of what's needed to protect the public."

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Exposure to lead is associated with a broad range of health effects, including harm to the central nervous system, cardiovascular system, kidneys and immune system.

Lead also can cause toxic effects in plants and can impair reproduction and growth in birds, mammals and other organisms.

EPA is proposing that the secondary standard, to protect the environment, be identical to the primary standard.

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The EPA will accept public comment for 60 days after the proposal on lead is published in the Federal Register. The agency will hold two public hearings on June 12, 2008 - one in St. Louis and one in Baltimore.

EPA must issue a final decision on the lead standard by September 15, 2008.

Find details about the proposal and public hearing information at: EPA.gov.


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