EPA tightens air standard for lead

Agency makes tenfold reduction in amount of lead allowed

THE ENVIRONMENTAL Protection Agency signed a final rule Oct. 15 that reduces the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for lead tenfold, from 1.5 micrograms of lead per cubic meter of air to 0.15 micrograms per cubic meter. The change is the agency’s first reduction since 1978.

An EPA news release said the revised standard is intended to increase protection against an array of adverse health effects, particularly effects on children’s developing nervous systems.

The new rule requires states to establish ambient air monitors near sources releasing more than one ton of lead per year, such as smelters, iron and steel foundries, and battery manufacturers. It also establishes monitoring in population centers of more than 500,000. Additionally, the rule requires modifying existing design requirements for ambient air lead monitoring networks.

The agency said the new monitoring requirements are designed to achieve better understanding of lead in air concentrations near emission sources and to provide better information on population exposure to lead in large urban areas.