U.S. EPA to tighten standard for airborne lead
Compelled by court order to review its 30-year-old standards for airborne lead, the U.S. EPA proposed a new, tougher standard this week that would cut allowable lead levels by over 90 percent. True to form, though, the agency proposed a range of standards that exceeded the maximum limit of what its scientific advisers recommended as necessary to protect public health. Lead pollution can affect children’s development and stunt their IQ; it can also cause heart and kidney problems in adults. In soliciting comments from the public, the EPA went even further, leaving its options open to set still looser lead standards — up to two and a half times the maximum levels advised by its scientists. The agency also left open the possibility of setting no standard at all, asking for comment on “when, if ever” the airborne lead standard should be scrapped (an option floated by the agency back in 2006). Yet, aside from its flaws, even the upper limits of allowable airborne lead proposed by the agency are a few times stricter than the current standard.