Energy & Environment

EPA unveils strategy for reducing lead exposure


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Thursday announced a revised strategy for reducing lead exposure, with a focus on communities that have had a disproportionate amount.

The draft plan would focus on identifying communities with especially high levels of both lead exposure and blood lead levels. The agency would next develop national standards and guidance to address those exposures and enforce existing regulations.

Broader goals of reducing community exposures will specifically target several particularly vulnerable situations, such as homes where young children may be exposed to lead paint, drinking water that may contain some level of lead and soil that may contain hazardous amounts of lead.

The agency’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention is currently revisiting dust-lead clearance levels, which inspectors and risk assessors use to determine whether housing presents a risk of lead exposure. The EPA also plans to collaborate with the Department of Housing and Urban Development to revisit the EPA’s rules on lead in renovation.

While recent decades have seen major strides in lead removal, areas that remain at particular risk include low-income areas and communities of color, the EPA noted in its proposed rule.

The agency also intends to review the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for lead to develop a new Integrated Science Assessment for it, containing updated scientific information on the metal.

“The EPA will rely on the findings in these documents, advice from the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, and public comments to inform the Agency’s decision whether to retain or revise the current NAAQS for lead,” the EPA said in its proposal.

Lead poisoning and exposure has been a particularly hot-button environmental-justice issue after the contamination of drinking water in Flint, Mich. After the source of the city’s drinking water was changed from Lake Huron to the Flint River, around 100,000 residents of the city were exposed to lead.

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