Environmental Protection

Agency Reconsiders Airborne Lead Monitoring Rules

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will reconsider some of its lead air pollution monitoring requirements, according to a recent press release. Even at low levels, lead exposures can damage a child's IQ, learning and memory.

The reconsideration will not delay implementation of the 2008 lead standards. EPA will issue a proposal and take public comment before deciding whether to revise the lead monitoring requirements. The agency anticipates issuing a proposal for public review and comment later this summer, and a final rule in early spring 2010.

"We have a fundamental responsibility to protect every child from environmental threats, especially contaminants like lead that can cause behavioral and learning disabilities and create a lifetime of challenges," said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. "We're putting in place rigorous standards to prevent contamination. To make them fully effective, we need close interaction and monitoring in the communities where harmful levels of airborne lead are most likely to be found."

The agency revised its air quality monitoring requirements for lead in 2008, at the same time it tightened the national air quality standards for lead for the first time in 30 years. The current rule requires air quality monitoring in areas where any industry emits at least one ton of lead to the air each year, and in the 101 urban areas with populations of 500,000 or more.

EPA will consider whether additional monitoring near industrial sources and urban areas is warranted. The agency is not reconsidering the lead standards.

Lead that is emitted into the air can be inhaled or ingested after it settles. Ingestion is the main route of human exposure. Children are the most susceptible because they are more likely to ingest lead and their bodies are developing rapidly. There is no known safe level of lead in the body.

For more information, visit http://www.epa.gov/air/lead/ .

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