Lead is a heavy metal that was once used in gasoline and paint. Persistent in urban dust, lead has been proven to lower children’s IQ levels, impairing their ability to learn and succeed in school, and to contribute to aggression, attention deficit and other behavioral problems that may last into adulthood. Lead also causes brain and kidney damage and cardiovascular injury.
The Environmental Protection Agency set a maximum legal level of lead in our air almost 30 years ago, when scientists understood far less about lead than they do today. Since then, the Centers for Disease Control has twice lowered the blood lead level at which medical intervention is recommended, and has now concluded that no level is safe. The EPA, however, has done nothing to improve its three-decades-old standard despite laws requiring it to review its standards every five years. Consequently, in 2005 a federal court ordered the agency to review the lead standard in light of current science.
Even though the EPA’s own scientists and advisors have concluded that the agency should significantly strengthen the standard, EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson is still considering eliminating rather than tightening the lead standard, claiming that the restriction may no longer be necessary because, over the past decades, average blood lead levels have dropped. While that is true, blood lead levels remain high enough — even in many parts of the country that meet the EPA’s current airborne lead standard — to seriously threaten children’s brain development and general health. The EPA’s focus on the improvements we’ve made so far ignores the serious threat that lead still poses to our children’s futures.
The EPA is accepting comments on this issue through January 16th, so if you can take just a few minutes to sign a pre-written note to the EPA, that would be fantastic. NRDC Lead Letter.
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