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EPA to Review Lead Ambient Air Standards

03/12/2020
Contact Information: 
EPA Press Office (press@epa.gov)

WASHINGTON (March 12, 2020) — Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the intent to initiate the next review of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for lead. Initiating the lead review is part of this Administration’s commitment to comply with the standards and deadlines mandated in the Clean Air Act by completing the five year air quality standards for each criteria pollutant.  

“The United States has continued our progress in reducing lead concentrations, in all of our environmental arenas,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Reducing lead exposures has been a key priority for the Trump Administration. The lead NAAQS review is part of our reforms to the standard-setting process that will lead to more timely, transparent, and efficient procedures so we can better protect our air and public health.”

As a result of Clean Air Act programs and efforts by state, local and tribal governments as well as technological improvements, lead concentrations in the U.S. fell by 82 percent between 2010 and 2018, and by 99 percent since 1980.

The significant decline in lead pollution in our air since 1980 reflect long-term trends for key air pollutants. Between 1970 and 2018, combined emissions of six common air pollutants declined by 74 percent, while the U.S. economy increased 275 percent.

  • Between 1990 and 2018:
    • Ground-level ozone fell 21%
    • Sulfur dioxide fell 89%
    • Nitrogen dioxide fell by at least 50%
    • Carbon monoxide fell 74%
  • Between 2000 and 2018, fine particulate matter fell by at least 34%.

In May 2018, EPA issued a “Back-to-Basics” memo to improve EPA’s process for reviewing the NAAQS. The memo laid out goals to get EPA back on track with Clean Air requirements, statutory deadlines, and the issuance of timely implementation rules, to ensure continued improvements in air quality across the country. 

In 2008, EPA substantially strengthened the national ambient air quality standards for lead. The revised standards improved health protection for at-risk groups, especially children. In 2016, based on its periodic review of the air quality criteria for lead, EPA issued a decision to retain the existing 2008 standard without revision.  

EPA identified 22 areas that were not meeting the 2008 lead standards. According to the most recent air quality data (2016-2018), 17 of the 22 initial areas are monitoring air quality that meets the current standards. For most of the remaining areas, lead emissions and monitored concentrations are declining as a result of implemented control measures. 

Background

The Clean Air Act directs EPA to establish, review, and revise as appropriate NAAQS for each criteria air pollutant to protect public health and the environment with an adequate margin of safety. Throughout the review process, EPA consults with the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, the agency’s independent advisors on the technical bases for the NAAQS.

EPA is committed to aggressively addressing lead issues across America by working with communities and partners to further identify and eliminate lead exposure, especially for children who are most vulnerable to lead poisoning. Through cross-governmental collaborations, public partnerships, rulemaking processes, enforcement actions, and targeted outreach, EPA has made tremendous gains to reduce lead exposure and associated harms.

More information about the Lead National Ambient Air Quality Standards can be found at: https://www.epa.gov/lead-air-pollution