EPA Proposes More Monitors for Airborne Lead

January 6, 2010

EPA is proposing to modify certain provisions of the controversial update of the lead air quality standards approved in the waning days of the Bush administration.

The action was spurred in part by a petition filed in January 2009 after the rule was approved in November 2008. One of the driving forces behind the petition was the fact that decades of science on the adverse health effects of lead have been leading toward a conclusion that there may be no safe level of lead exposure.

One of the key new proposals is an increase in and relocation of air monitors that must be installed. If the agency goes ahead with this as is, following the 45-day public comment period that ends in mid-February 2010, and the development of the final rule, it would add approximately 240 monitors in about 40 states. These would be placed near known lead emission sources that wouldn't have been monitored under the Bush-era rule. In addition, the agency would delete about 100 monitors that had been required based solely on the population of an urban area.

The agency says the revamped monitoring process would allow it to better target areas that may not meet the new air concentration standards issued in 2008 (which would not be changed). The monitors required as part of the Bush-era rule must still be operating as of Jan. 1, 2010. If the additional ones are approved, they would have to be in place by Jan. 1, 2011.