Contains Lead
Since lead was phased out of fuel, lead levels in air have dropped by 93 percent. Image: Flickr / stevensnodgrass / CC-BY

In 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency set new allowable limits for ambient lead levels. A new report from the EPA has found that 39 states are meeting limits; 11 are not.

EPA lead standards

Starting in 2008, the EPA started judging the amount of ambient lead based on a new standard. Air quality standards require no more than .15 micrograms of lead per cubic meter in the air. These new, lower standards are in response to the damage lead exposure can do. Infants and toddlers exposed to lead show neurological effects with lower IQs and a higher incidence of neurological problems in adulthood. Previously, the limit for lead levels was much higher, but current studies show that small exposures can do almost as much damage.

Studying lead levels

Lead levels in various states and specific geographic areas are being tested and studied by the EPA. In some localities, the EPA is taking “administrative action” against property owners that are not allowing the EPA to test soil for lead levels. On average, 30 to 40 percent of properties that are tested for soil lead levels are found to have higher-than-allowed lead. The EPA cleans up contaminated soil for free, but some property owners still are not allowing EPA inspectors onto their land. In general, lead levels in the air have dropped more than 90 percent since lead in gasoline has been phased out.

States with high levels

The EPA is taking data from 2007 to 2010 to study lead levels in the air. Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan and Puerto Rico have all been found to have lead levels higher than currently recommended. Tennessee, Arizona and New York are all listed as “unclassifiable,” which means there is not enough data about the lead levels to make a judgement. All states that are found to have high lead levels must create a plan to reduce pollution and implement it within five years.


USA Today:
Health Canada:

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