Frisco Unleaded Demands EPA Reconsider New Lead Standard: No “Ample Margin of Safety”

by jim on March 6, 2012

 

Frisco Unleaded, the local citizens group sponsored by Downwinders, along with four other national and state environmental groups, have petitioned the EPA to reconsider the new National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for lead that's driving the nation's lead smelters to enclose their facilities and lower their emissions by this coming fall. And they're using our old friends at EarthJustice for their lawyers. In their petition filed today, the groups, including the national Sierra Club, California Communities Against Toxics, Missouri Coalition for the Environment, and the national Resource Defense Council, told EPA that it erred in relying on a standard that aims only for an "adequate margin," when the official regulatory goal is supposed to be an "ample margin of safety" to protect public health from lead. Now maybe that sounds like so much bureaucratic nit-picking to you at first, but what it turns out to mean is that the EPA didn't consider the health effects of breathing lead on those people already living around lead smelters that emit lots of lead into the air. Hard to believe, and as it turns out, the EPA usually does assess harms from all kinds of exposure pathways. It just didn't do it for lead. It settled for a number that seems very strict – ten times lower than the old standard, when in fact, there was lots of evidence that the number should have been much lower, and that the technology to achieve it was already in use. According to the petition, "EPA reduced emissions no more than needed to assure that a source in the Secondary Lead Smelting source category would not alone emit to the extent that the ambient air concentration of lead would exceed 0.15 μg/m3. EPA did not assess each type of risk caused by lead emissions – including chronic inhalation and multipathway risk and other potential risks – independently from its assessment on the NAAQS, and it thus has failed to show how it considered the full impact of secondary lead smelters’ emissions on public health."One of the most important points made on behalf of Frisco residents was that the new standard wasn't written to be protective of people who've lived where there's been decades of lead smelter fallout."EPA’s reliance on the NAAQS has failed to appropriately take into account the ongoing impact of historic air emissions on the most-exposed people near secondary lead smelters, and has not assessed or explained how the NAAQS could provide ‚acceptable‛ protection in view of this history. The affected communities near sources in this source category have experienced persistent, bioaccumulative toxic air emissions for years, in the form of lead, cadmium, arsenic, and other hazardous air pollutants (HAPs)." Specifically, the petition cites Frisco has an exceptional community, "For affected communities like Frisco, TX that have experienced years of past exposure, which in turn have increased current health risk, smaller amounts of additional emissions are even more likely to cause greater harm.  If you look at the other groups that filed today's petition, they're all well-established. Frisco Unleaded isn't even a year old yet, and it's already taking on the EPA. As organizational parents, we couldn't be more proud. 

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