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EPA Proposed Rule on Lead in Air Emissions Ignores Science and the Need to Protect Young Children

May 1, 2008

(Washington, DC)  While acknowledging the need to restrict the levels of lead allowed in air emissions, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today failed, again, to utilize the best available science by proposing a rule that would allow children to be exposed to harmful levels of lead.

Dr. Michael McCally, executive director of Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) expressed frustration at the EPA announcement. “Once again the EPA has ignored the evidence, disregarded information from its own scientific advisory committee and violated the Clean Air Act.  As a result of the decision to propose a range from 0.10 to 0.30 micrograms of lead per cubic meter in air emissions, thousands of children around the country will be at risk of developmental disabilities.  Scientists and physicians from across the country called for a more stringent limit to protect public health.  Yet, the EPA did not act. This type of decision making reflects poorly on the administration and is one of the reasons Americans don’t trust their government.”

EPA’s decision comes after it acknowledged the current level was not protective and sought input through an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking.  In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated “no level of lead in a child’s blood can be specified as safe.” EPA’s Staff Paper recommends the most health protective standard is with in a range from 0.02 to 0.05 micrograms per cubic meter, and the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee noted in an April 2008 study that the upper limits proposed by EPA would cause cognitive and developmental problems in young children exposed to those emissions. 

PSR worked to coordinate a letter to EPA Administration Steven Johnson from more than 200 physicians, public health officials and scientists arguing for adoption of the 0.02 micrograms per cubic meter standard in order to protect public health, as required by the Clean Air Act. To view this letter, click here. 

“This is a proposed rule and one that would not be adequate.  PSR encourages everyone to write to the EPA and tell them they oppose the proposed rule and call for a final standard to be set at 0.02 micrograms,” added McCally.

Physicians for Social Responsibility, founded in 1961, is guided by the values and expertise of medicine and public health and works to protect human life from the gravest threats to health and survival.

For more information contact Kristen Welker-Hood, RN, at 202-667-4260 or kwelkerhood@psr.org.

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