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EPA tightens lead dust standards that environmentalists say don't go far enough

EPA tightens lead dust standards that environmentalists say don't go far enough
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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Monday tightened standards for how much lead can remain as dust on surfaces such as floors and window sills after lead removal activities, in a move that environmentalists said doesn't go far enough.

The agency argued that its move will better protect children from dangerous exposure to lead, which can damage the brain and nervous system and slow growth and development.

“This overdue regulation is yet another example of the Trump Administration’s commitment to reduce sources of lead exposure and to provide a healthier environment for our children,” said EPA Administrator Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden: Let's make a deal on infrastructure, taxes Overnight Energy: EPA pledges new focus on environmental justice | Republicans probe EPA firing of Trump-appointed science advisers | Biden administration asks court to toss kids' climate lawsuit Republicans probe EPA firing of Trump-appointed science advisers MORE in a statement.

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Opponents, however, pointed to agency calculations showing measurable effects on children who are exposed to lead at the level set by the new standard.

“How can EPA say this designates a safe level when kids are going to be losing IQ points if they have that level of lead in their homes?” asked Eve Gartner, the managing attorney for Earthjustice’s Toxic Exposure and Health Program.

Earthjustice is suing the EPA over its similar hazard standard, issued last year, and Gartner said a legal challenge to the new standard is likely.

Two sets of standards govern how much lead dust on surfaces is considered safe. A “hazard” standard makes an initial safety determination, and a “clearance level” standard determines safety levels after action is taken to remove lead deemed hazardous.

Monday’s final rule brings the “clearance levels” standards down to the same limits that are set by the hazard standard: 10 micrograms of lead in dust per square foot on floors and 100 micrograms per square foot for window sills.

Gartner argued that the standards for after-lead removal activities should be lower than the hazard standard to create a “margin of safety.”

“You don’t really want the clearance standard to be exactly the same as the hazard standard because then if a tiny bit more dust gets added, then you’ve exceeded the hazard,” she said.