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Rule Strengthens Lead Air Quality Standard, Increases Monitoring

Release Date: 10/16/2008
Contact Information: David Bryan, 913-551-7433,

Environmental News


(Kansas City, Kan., Oct. 16, 2008) - EPA significantly reduced the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for lead with the signing of the final rule Oct. 15. The Agency reduced the standard from the 1.5 micrograms of lead per cubic meter of air, which was set in 1978, to 0.15 micrograms per cubic meter.

EPA revised the standard to provide increased protection against an array of adverse health effects, particularly effects on children's developing nervous systems.

In September 2005, the U.S. District Court in St. Louis ordered the lead NAAQS review and set the schedule for the review in response to a lawsuit by the Missouri Coalition for the Environment. Consistent with the terms of the court's order, the EPA Administrator signed the notice of final rulemaking October 15, 2008, for publication in the Federal Register.

The ruling is of particular significance to Region 7 because one of only two nonattainment areas in the U.S. for the lead air standard is in Herculaneum, Mo., which is also the home of the only operating primary lead smelter in the country and a designated Superfund site.

The new rule will modify the existing design requirements for ambient air lead monitoring networks. The new requirement requires states to establish ambient air monitors near sources releasing more than one ton of lead per year, such as smelters, iron and steel foundries, and battery manufacturers. It also establishes monitoring in population centers of more than 500,000, including Des Moines/West Des Moines, Iowa; Omaha/Council Bluffs; Wichita, Kan.; St. Louis Metro Area and Kansas City Metro Area in Region 7.

Missouri, the only state in Region 7 presently with an existing monitoring network, will likely be required to expand its monitoring network. The new monitoring standards also establish monitoring requirements for Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska, which do not currently operate lead monitoring networks.

These monitoring requirements are designed to achieve better understanding of lead in air concentrations near emission sources and to provide better information on population exposure to lead in large urban areas.

Areas will be designated as attainment, nonattainment or unclassifiable within two to three years of this final rulemaking. Any areas designated nonattainment must then attain the standard within five years of the designation.