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New EPA Lead Standard Fails to Protect Public Health

October 16, 2008

Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) condemns the inadequate effort by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish new lead levels that are adequately protective of the public health.

The EPA announced that it would be lowering the acceptable level of lead in the ambient air to 0.15 micrograms per cubic meter of air (ug/m3), a decision that has been 30 years in the making.   While acknowledging the need to restrict the levels of lead allowed in outdoor air emissions, the EPA failed to utilize the best available science and protect children and other sensitive populations from the toxic effects of lead.

“Contrary to Administrator Stephen Johnson’s statement to the press, this standard is not protective of public health with an adequate margin of safety, as mandated by the Clean Air Act. 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 own Staff Paper recommends the most health protective standard is within 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,” said Dr. Michael McCally, MD, PhD, Executive Director of PSR.

PSR program director Dr. Kristen Welker-Hood worked to coordinate a letter to EPA Administration Steven Johnson from more than 200 physicians, public health officials and scientists urging the 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.

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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