Agency Identifies Lead Nonattainment Areas in 12 States

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has notified states of the initial list of areas that would not meet new, more protective national air quality standards for lead.

In response to recommendations from state and tribal representatives, EPA’s regional administrators sent letters to governors of all states and territories notifying them of their current status. EPA notified 12 of those states ─ Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas ─ that they have at least one area under consideration for a nonattainment designation based on the 2008 lead standards. A nonattainment area would include counties with monitors that show violations of the lead standard and nearby areas contributing to that violation.

Using data from currently operating monitors, EPA will designate nonattainment areas by October. States and tribes may comment on the plans outlined in the letters and provide additional information to EPA by Aug. 16. The public may also review the agency’s plans and provide comment through that deadline.

On Oct.15, 2008, EPA substantially strengthened the air standards for lead by tenfold, setting them at 0.15 micrograms per cubic meter. The federal agency also established requirements for siting new lead air monitors that took effect on Jan. 1. EPA intends to make a second round of final designations in October 2011 using information from the new monitors. States and tribes may provide updated recommendations for the second round of designations by Dec. 15.

Reducing levels of lead pollution is an important part of EPA’s commitment to a clean, healthy environment. Although airborne lead levels have dropped dramatically in the United States, largely as a result of the transition to unleaded gas, the latest science indicates that the stronger standards are needed to protect children.

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