EPA Lowers Lead Screening Levels for Residential Soil

EPA Lowers Lead Screening Levels for Residential Soil

The change is the first of its kind in three decades.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced a policy shift in its approach to tackling lead contamination in residential soil, particularly in areas where children are at risk.

For the first time in 30 years, the EPA is revising recommended screening levels for lead in soil, intensifying efforts to investigate and remediate contaminated sites under the Superfund law and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. This move—part of the Biden-Harris administration's agenda on environmental justice—aims to safeguard families and children from the dangers of lead exposure.

“Every family and child, regardless of their zip code, deserves to live without worrying about the life-long health effects from exposure to lead pollution,” EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan said in a statement. “Today’s action ensures that EPA uses the latest, best available science to protect children living and playing near sites contaminated by lead in soil.”

The updated guidelines lower the screening level for lead in residential soil from 400 ppm (parts per million) to 200 ppm. The EPA generally applies a more stringent level of 100 ppm in areas with multiple lead exposure sources. These screening levels serve as benchmarks to guide site-specific cleanup decisions based on factors like risk assessment and community feedback.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), lead exposure can cause damage to the brain and nervous system, slow growth and development, and lead to learning, behavior, hearing and speech problems. And the CDC reports lead exposure’s physiological effects include brain damage, kidney dysfunction, heart disease, reproductive problems and cancer.

The updated guidance aligns with the EPA's Strategy to Reduce Lead Exposures and Disparities in U.S. Communities and the Federal Lead Action Plan. The guidance is effective immediately, but the EPA welcomes public feedback, which may impact future updates, until March 17, 2024.

More information on the change is available on the EPA website.

About the Author

Robert Yaniz Jr. is the Content Editor for Environmental Protection.

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