For Immediate Release, June 18, 2014

Contact:   Jonathan Evans, Center for Biological Diversity, (213) 598-1466
Caroline Cox, Center for Environmental Health, (510) 655-3900 x 308
Joseph Minott, Clean Air Council, (215) 567-4004 x 116

Lawsuit Launched to Clean Up Lead Air Pollution Across United States

Nine States Still Haven’t Complied With 2008 Lead-reduction Rules

SAN FRANCISCO— Three environmental groups filed a formal notice of intent to sue the Environmental Protection Agency today for failing to ensure that people across the country are protected from dangerous lead in the air.

In 2008 the EPA revised 30-year-old air standards for lead, lowering allowable airborne lead levels by 90 percent to protect health and environmental quality. Under the Clean Air Act, the agency had three years to ensure that all 50 states submitted effective plans to meet the new standards; but nine states and Puerto Rico have not yet complied, and the EPA has failed to keep critically important lead reductions on track. The states are California, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas.

“The EPA is failing to protect millions of Americans from the terrible health effects of lead,” said Jonathan Evans, toxics and endangered species campaign director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The dangers of lead, particularly for children, are well known — that’s why the standards were raised. The EPA can’t sit by any longer while polluting facilities continue to poison the air we all have to breathe.”

The Clean Air Act requires the agency to identify and set “National Ambient Air Quality Standards” for harmful pollutants such as lead, a neurotoxin that causes a wide range of severe health problems and reduces young children’s IQs. Since the phaseout of leaded gasoline, most airborne lead emissions come from lead smelters, waste incinerators, utilities and lead-acid battery makers.

“Children and families living near polluting facilities must be protected from airborne lead poisoning threats,” said Caroline Cox, research director for the Center for Environmental Health. “Clearly we can't rely on industry to clean up its act without oversight. EPA must act now to enforce the law and end this serious health threat to children.”

Lead is an extremely toxic element that threatens human health, especially that of children. It disrupts their development, causing slow growth, development defects and damage to the brain and nervous system; it does not break down in the environment. Ecosystems near lead sources experience decreases in biodiversity, ecosystem production, and increases in invasive species. Many scientific studies have also expressed concern about sublethal effects of atmospheric lead on wildlife.

The air standards for lead were revised in November 2008, yet many states have failed to meet the new standard. Nine states, along with Puerto Rico, have failed to submit a plan or revision that fully addresses the new lead air-quality standards: California, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas.

For more on the dangers of lead click here.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 775,000 members and supporters dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

The Center for Environmental Health protects people from toxic chemicals and promotes business products and practices that are safe for public health and the environment.

The Clean Air Council is a member-supported, nonprofit environmental organization dedicated to protecting everyone's right to breathe clean air.

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