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EPA takes baby steps on lead emissions

Friday, May 2, 2008

baby steps for EPA on lead emissionsGood news! The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed new, stricter limits on lead emissions.

Bad news, too, though: the proposed limits, although stronger than what exists now, are weaker than the limits suggested by both an independent panel and EPA's own scientists.

Although the amount of lead in the air has decreased drastically since leaded gasoline was banned in the '70s (from 74,000 tons year to 1,300, according to The Washington Post), even small amounts of lead can have harmful effects on children's development.

Both the independent panel and EPA's scientists said the maximum air-lead content ought to be no higher than ,20 micrograms per cubic foot, and the independent panel also suggested that polluters record their emissions for a single month. EPA's proposal would allow for a range of lead emissions up to .30 micrograms per cubic foot, averaged over three months. It miight not sound like a big difference, but when you're talking about lost IQ points in children, it is.

EPA could have taken a stronger stance on air-lead content. Baby-steps are fine for babies, but when it comes to protecting children's health, we should expect giant leaps from our government. If you live in or near St. Louis, MI or Baltimore, MD, EPA is holding public hearings [pdf] on this proposal in your neck of the woods on June 12th. Once the proposed rule is published in the federal register, EPA will accept comment for 60 days -- I'll keep you posted.

Photo by Sean Dreilinger.