U.S. mulls removing lead from list of pollutants
By Timothy Gardner
NEW YORK – U.S. environmental regulators are considering removing lead, a heavy metal linked to learning problems in children, from a list of regulated pollutants because past rules have greatly reduced levels of the toxin.
An Environmental Protection Agency staff paper released on Tuesday said the agency would evaluate the status of lead as an air pollutant and “assess whether the revocation of the standard is an appropriate option for the Administrator to consider.”
The EPA said that from 1980 to 2005 the national annual lead concentrations have dropped more than 90 percent.
Lead levels in air have mostly fallen because it was banned as a gasoline additive starting in the 1970s. Auto makers had asked for the ban because it damaged catalytic converters.
Criteria pollutants on the National Ambient Air Quality list are reviewed every five years under the Clean Air Act.
Now one of the leading emitters of lead pollution is the battery industry.
An environmentalist said the EPA was pressured to review the status of lead as a pollutant by industry.
“The EPA would be cutting a big sweetheart deal for the lead smelter industry if they revoked the listing,” said Frank O’Donnell, president of Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group Clean Air Watch.
He said the lead assessment was an example of the EPA subordinating the expertise of agency scientists.
EPA officials could not be immediately reached.
In a letter last July to the EPA, industry group the Battery Council International urged the agency to “delete lead from the criteria pollutants.”
A U.S. lawmaker also derided the EPA for considering the revocation of the lead listing.
In a letter to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, U.S. Representative Henry Waxman, a California Democrat, said: “I am writing to urge you to renounce this dangerous proposal immediately. At a time when the public health impacts of environmental pollution are becoming better understood and our reason for concern grows, this announcement by EPA is particularly misdirected.”
EPA expects to release potential policy options on lead for the agency’s administrator to consider next summer.
Lead pollution is said to have already in antiquity brought down the Roman empire.
US military pollution in Puerto Rico: here.