EPA Considers Upping Airborne Lead Monitoring Requirements

To ensure the most vulnerable Americans are adequately protected from exposure to lead from the air, EPA will reconsider some of its lead air pollution monitoring requirements, Administrator Lisa P. Jackson announced Wednesday. Even at low levels, lead exposures can damage a child’s IQ, learning, and memory, she noted.

”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,” Jackson said. “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.”

Air quality monitoring measures concentrations of a pollutant in the outdoor air. EPA revised its air quality monitoring requirements for lead in 2008, at the same time the agency 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.

As part of this week’s action, EPA will consider whether additional monitoring near industrial sources of lead is warranted. The agency also will reconsider the monitoring requirements for urban areas as part of its review. EPA is not reconsidering the lead standards.

Lead that is emitted into the air can be inhaled or can be ingested after it settles out of the air. 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. Exposures to low levels of lead early in life have been linked to damage to IQ, learning, memory and behavior. There is no known safe level of lead in the body.

EPA noted its reconsideration will not delay implementation of the 2008 lead standards. The agency will issue a proposal and take public comment before deciding whether to revise the lead monitoring requirements. EPA anticipates issuing a proposal for public review and comment later this summer, and a final rule in early spring 2010. For more information, visit www.epa.gov/air/lead/.

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