EPA Tightens Lead Exposure Standards

WASHINGTON, DC, December 28, 2000 (ENS) - The outgoing Clinton administration this week took yet another step to fortify the nation's environmental regulations before relinquishing power, as it authorized the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to unveil a new standard for identifying "dangerous" levels of lead in paint, dust and soil.

Carol Browner, the EPA's outgoing administrator, said that lead poisoning continues to be one of the "most serious environmental threats" to the nation's children.

"These new standards provide important information to help all Americans better protect our children from the threats from lead," Browner said. "This marks another important part of the commitment of the Clinton-Gore administration to protect the health of our most vulnerable citizens - our children."

Browner

EPA Administrator Carol Browner (Photo courtesy of the EPA)

The new standards are more protective than previous EPA recommendations for lead exposure, which has been linked to profound developmental and neurological impairment in children, mental retardation, poor academic performance and juvenile delinquency. Nearly one million children in America today have dangerously elevated levels of lead in their blood.

Because of the potential dangers, experts say that any exposure to deteriorated lead based paint presents a hazard.

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People who remove flaking paint from older buildings may be exposed to toxic lead (Photo courtesy of the Medical University of South Caroliina)

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.

The EPA's proposal will, for the first time, 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.

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.

The standards will also apply to other federal lead provisions, such as the EPA's real estate disclosure requirements presently in place for people selling or renting a home or apartment.

Moreover, the standards will also serve as general guidance for other EPA programs engaged in toxic waste cleanups. In addition, they will provide landlords, parents and childcare providers with specific levels on which to make informed decisions regarding lead found in their homes, yards or play areas.

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.

For more information on the environmental and health effects of lead exposure, log on to: http://www.epa.gov/lead