EPA Lowers Lead Reporting Threshold

WASHINGTON, DC, January 10, 2001 - Americans may soon be able to find out more about the amounts and sources of toxic lead emitted into their communities near homes, schools and playgrounds. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) this week proposed a new rule that will expand the information available to the public about lead emissions.

The EPA's new rule lowers the reporting threshold for lead emissions as required under the federal Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) program, a user friendly database that is designed to give citizens access to the types and amounts of pollutants that are released in their neighborhoods.

refinery

The Toxic Release Inventory informs citizens about pollutants emitted by all kinds of facilities, such as this refinery (Photo courtesy the North Atlantic Company)

Under the new rule, facilities will be required to report to the TRI database any lead or lead compound emissions exceeding 100 pounds annually. The new threshold will have the greatest effect on industries engaged in petroleum refining, manufacturing, electrical power production and lead smelting, all of which pose lead pollution threats for air, water and soil.

The new 100 pound reporting threshold is dramatically lower than the previous TRI requirements, which required such facilities to disclose lead emissions only if they manufactured or processed more than 25,000 pounds of lead annually, or used more than 10,000 pounds of the substance per year.

EPA administrator Carol Browner said the rule will give people access to "critical information about the toxic chemicals in their neighborhoods."

"Expanding the public's right to know information is one of the best tools for protecting the health of our communities," Browner said.

Browner

EPA Administrator Carol Browner (Photo courtesy EPA)

Browner noted that lead poisoning is still a significant public health threat in America, especially for children.

Young children and developing fetuses are known to absorb lead more readily than adults. Once in the body, lead is distributed to the blood, soft tissue, and bone. Lead exposure can lead to damage to the brain and central nervous system. It can also retard development, and can cause hyperactivity and learning problems.

Lead poisoning affects the health of almost one million American children each year.

Adults exposed to lead can suffer difficulties during pregnancy, high blood pressure, nervous disorders, and memory and concentration problems.

People can be exposed to lead through a variety of means, including:

The new TRI reporting requirements for lead and lead compound emissions will apply to 2001 emissions. The reports on those emissions will be submitted in 2002.

The announcement of the new lead emissions reporting threshold comes just two weeks after the EPA unveiled a proposal for identifying "dangerous" levels of lead in paint, dust and soil, which children are prone to ingest. That proposal will provide home owners, school and playground administrators, childcare providers and others with standards to protect children from hazards posed by lead, including children in federally owned housing.

flaking paint

Many older dwellings still contain lead based paints, which peel and are ingested by children (Photo courtesy Medical University of South Carolina)

The new standards establish uniform benchmarks on which to base remedial actions taken to safeguard children and the public from the dangers of lead. The standards will apply to a host of federal, state and local agencies, as well as tribal governments.

Under the new standards, lead will be considered a hazard if there are greater than 40 micrograms of lead in dust per square foot on floors, or 250 micrograms of lead in dust per square foot on interior window sills. The substance will also be categorized as hazardous if it exceeds 400 parts per million in bare soil in children's play areas, or averages at least 1200 parts per million in bare soil in the rest of the yard.

EPA officials maintain that identifying lead hazards through these standards will allow inspectors and risk assessors to assist property owners in deciding how to address problems such as lead paint abatement, covering or removing soil or professional cleaning of lead dust.

A broad description of the EPA's Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) program is available on the agency's website at: http://www.epa.gov/tri. Questions about TRI reporting can be directed to the agency's hotline at 1-800-424-9346 or 703-412-9877.