Allowable levels of airborne lead emissions will be reduced tenfold from current standards, under new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules announced Thursday. The stricter regulations are intended to protect the public -- especially children -- from health problems associated with exposure to airborne lead.
The new, stricter airborne lead standards "tighten the allowable lead level 10 times to 0.15 micrograms of lead per cubic meter of air," according to an EPA Press Release, and mark the first time lead standards have been changed in 30 years. The New York Times reports that representatives of a number of industries that are major emitters of lead -- including metalworkers, recyclers, and utility companies -- had traveled to Washington D.C. in early October, to plead their case for a less strict standard for airborne lead emissions. But under the new standards, "No later than October 2011, EPA will designate areas that must take additional steps to reduce lead air emissions. States have five years to meet these new standards after designations take effect," according to the EPA.
Lead is a dangerous substance, especially for young children and older adults. Exposure to high levels of lead in the air -- or in products like lead-based paint -- can lead to nervous system damage, behavior and learning problems, hearing problems, and headaches.