The Environmental Protection Agency recently tightened the allowable lead level 10 times to 0.15 micrograms of lead per cubic meter of air (ug/m3). It’s the first time in 30 years that the EPA has changed the lead standards. The previous standards, were 1.5 (ug/m3), set in 1978.
The EPA will designate areas that must take additional steps to reduce lead air emissions by October 2011. States have five years to meet these new standards after designations take effect.
The EPA estimates that 18 counties in a dozen states will violate the new standard and will need to find ways to further reduce lead emissions. Over 100 cities near sources that release at least one ton of lead per year would also need to measure lead.
The EPA says the cost of the lead reductions would be between $150 million to $2.8 billion, but would produce economic benefits between $3.7 billion to $6.9 billion.
AP reported that the Association of Battery Recyclers said the new standards would be hard to meet. Two weeks ago, several members of the group met with White House and EPA officials to seek a less stringent standard.
Environmentalists welcomed the move but said the EPA could have done more to monitor emissions.
In August, 12 states sued the EPA for violating the federal Clean Air Act by refusing to issue standards for controlling global warming pollution emissions from oil refineries.