National Standard for Airborne Lead
Airborne lead has come to be recognized as a nearly ubiquitous background source of lead absorption for children. Nearly 200,000 tons of lead particulates are emitted each year into the air in the United States1—approximately 95% from automotive emissions and the remainder from stationary sources. Although lead from paint remains the most important source of severe lead poisoning in childhood, recent reports of increased lead absorption in children living near highways2 and lead smelters3 have helped to focus pediatric attention upon the potential health hazards of exposure to airborne lead.
In November 1976, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was ordered by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., to develop a national standard for airborne lead. This court order was the outcome of a civil suit brought against EPA by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC); NRDC had charged that the protection of the public health against the adverse effects of lead required establishment of a uniform national air lead standard. EPA has now promulgated a national standard of 1.5 µg of lead per cubic meter of air.4
The Committee on Environmental Hazards has reviewed the series of decisions by which EPA arrived at the proposed standard. It may be instructive to present the chain of logic.
1. EPA had first to determine which groups within the population were most susceptible to the adverse effects of lead. This was an important initial step, because the Agency is bound under the provisions of the Clean Air Act to set air standards sufficiently stringent to protect the groups deemed most vulnerable.
- Copyright © 1978 by the American Academy of Pediatrics