Thursday, July 23, 2009

EPA may monitor air for lead

Posted By on Thu, Jul 23, 2009 at 10:03 AM

Isn't lead the stuff that makes you stupid if you ingest too much of it? Uh. Yeah. Side effects include learning disabilities, lower I.Q., developmental delays and behavioral problems. And the good Lord knows we don't need to lower our collective I.Q.

How in the hell does lead get into the air? Isn't that stuff heavy?

Well, when you go to the gas station, what kind of gas do you buy? Unleaded, right? But, that's here in the United States — not every country in the world uses unleaded gasoline. And, since we share one atmosphere, we share pollution problems, too.

It's also released into the air during the manufacturing of some products, when volcanoes erupt, when older houses with lead-based paint are remodeled, during mining operations and when waste — that's right, our trash — is incinerated. It's naturally occurring, so it can also be found in dust and water.

Lead is heavy, though, so it doesn't stay in the atmosphere long. It floats back down to the ground, thank you gravity, assuming we don't inhale it first. Since we can't see lead in the air, it's not like you can hold your breath when a lead molecule floats by.

Here's the press release from the EPA:

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 today. Even at low levels, lead exposures can damage a child's IQ, learning and memory.

"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."

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 today'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.

The reconsideration will not delay implementation of the 2008 lead standards. EPA will issue a proposal and take public comment before deciding whether to revise the lead monitoring requirements. The agency anticipates issuing a proposal for public review and comment later this summer, and a final rule in early spring 2010.

More information:

Here's a news report from a year ago talking about our current legislation and toys from China:

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