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Making it Harder to 'Get the Lead Out:' Stricter New Standards for Polluters

October 17, 2008

Des Moines, IA - The use of lead in gasoline and paint was banned years ago, but there are about 16,000 factories and mines across the United States, including many in Iowa, that continue to be sources of airborne lead emissions. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has slashed the amount of allowable lead emissions by 90 percent - however, polluters are being given nine more years to meet the new standards.

Avi Kar, a lead expert with the Natural Resources Defense Council, says the reduction is a promising step - but the next, is to restore air quality monitoring locations that can watch for violations.

"Right now, I think there are limited numbers of monitors out there. About half were removed from service in the last eight years. They need to ramp up monitoring again."

In Iowa, Kar notes, there are no active monitoring locations. He also points to other flaws in the new standard. For example, the ruling averages out lead levels over a three-month period.

"That means that bursts of pollution from polluters can get averaged out over time and won't result in violations, even though they pollute. The final concern is that the standard won't be fully in effect until 2017, which is just too long for an entire generation of children."

He describes lead is a dangerous neurotoxin that research has shown to be a health hazard to children. Critics of the tighter restrictions say they could potentially threaten the viability of such industries as battery recycling, metalworking shops and utilities, which are major contributors to airborne lead.

A map of Iowa's lead polluters is available online at www.nrdc.org.

Dick Layman/Elizabeth Grattan, Public News Service - IA