Lead is a metal found in the earth’s crust. However, due to human activity such as mining, burning fossil fuels and manufacturing, it has become more widespread. Lead is also toxic. Lead poisoning occurs when lead builds up in the body over time. At very high levels lead can be fatal; but even in small amounts it can cause serious health problems, particularly in children under the age of 6 who can develop mental and physical impairments.
Lead emitted into the air can be inhaled or can be ingested after it settles out of the air. Lead particles that settle in soil can last for years, which continues to be a major problem, particularly around highways and urban settings. Because they are more likely to ingest lead and their bodies are developing rapidly, children are most susceptible to lead exposure. There is no known safe level of lead in the body.
Because lead has been so thoroughly showered across the land, and in order to adequately protect the most vulnerable Americans, the EPA is reconsidering some of its lead monitoring requirements.
“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.” Administrator Lisa P. Jackson.
In 2008 the EPA revised its monitoring requirements for airborne lead and tightened the national air quality standards for lead – the first time the standards had been changed 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.
The EPA will consider whether additional monitoring near industrial sources of lead is warranted. The agency will also reconsider the monitoring requirements for urban areas. However, the current lead standards will not be reconsidered at this time.
For more information on EPA lead policy, click here.
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