Prepared by: ARC Ecology, San Francisco, CA (415) 495-1786
EPA's proposed rules under the Toxic Substance Control Act, Section 403, do not protect children from lead poisoning. EPA estimates that 55 - 80 percent of children exposed to the lead concentrations set forth in the proposed standards will exceed recommended health targets. Nine to 30 percent would be considered lead poisoned.
The proposal backs away from current lead abatement guidelines for soil. Current guidelines call for cleanup (or institutional controls) when soil concentrations reach 400 ppm in areas where children play. Proposed standards would allow up to 2000 ppm before requiring abatement.
Although EPA suggested improved interior standards, EPA took away standards that address contaminated attached carpets. Sixty percent of homes have attached carpeting.
The proposed standards were developed using cost-benefit analysis. EPA abandon its best health-based model, the Integrated Environmental Uptake and Biokenetic (IEUBK), to develop these proposed standards.
Eighteen to 25 million homes have lead in excess of the proposed standards, exposing 48,000 to 68,000 children per year to harm.
Lead affects virtually every system in the body. It is particularly harmful to unborn and young children, whose brains and nervous systems are developing. Low levels of lead in the blood is associated with diminished ability to learn and concentrate, reduced physical stature, hearing damage, poor hand-eye coordination, and hyperactivity. This damage is thought to be permanent -- the consequences of failing in school certainly are permanent even if the physical damage can be repaired.
Poor and minority inner-city children are most at risk for lead poisoning.
Past uses of lead contribute significantly to current exposures. Lead based paint continues to poison children as it deposits a fine dust throughout the home, and especially during remodeling or repair projects. Residue from leaded gasoline (which contaminated soil in the inner cities and along major roads) also continues to expose children.
The Centers for Disease Control reports that incidence of lead poisoning in the American workforce rose 6 percent last year -- reversing recent trends.
Use of lead continues to rise in the United States, though in sheet forms that are not as easily dispersed into air, water, and soil as the particulate forms used before 1978.
Leaded gasoline continues to be sold outside of the United States. Lead paint is still used in the United States to paint bridges, boats, metal roofing, and some commercial buildings.
After this rule is final, EPA intends to finalize interim guidance used to evaluate CERCLA (Superfund) and RCRA (industrial) cleanups. These guidelines use a lead screening value of 400 ppm.
Preliminary discussions about this rule were dominated by the lead industry, real estate/insurance/banking industry, the military, and others who had more to lose than to gain from regulation. The people who would be most likely to suffer harm to their health as a result of lead exposure were not well represented.
The Defense Department will save hundreds of thousands of dollars on lead abatement if this proposal goes through. Communities who receive closed military bases, and military families who live on base, will bear the long-term health burden.
EPA did not publicize the availability of this rule. Those who would most benefit from health-protective lead standards did not learn about the rulemaking until it was almost too late.
Thanks last minute public outcry, the comment deadline was extended until November 30. Now we must focus our attention on creating an alternative proposal.
EPA plans to hold a hearing in San Francisco on November 16 to hear public testimony regarding this proposal.