The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said last week that it would revise the existing standards for lead, a toxic air pollutant that can cause serious illness. But if you ask the folks at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), theyre not revising the 30-year old limits enough. The proposed change would reduce the existing standard of 1.5 micrograms per cubic meter of air to between 0.10 and 0.30 micrograms per cubic meter. While this is a significant reduction to the acceptable levels of lead air pollution that are allowed nationally, it still exceeds the highest acceptable range of 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter recommended by the EPAs scientific advisers.
A project attorney with the NRDCs public heath program, Avinash Kar, said the proposal falls short of whats needed and would not adequately protect the public from lead exposure. About their proposal, he had this to say:
According to EPA projections, emissions of 60 pounds of lead from a single pollution source could cause a median loss of up to three IQ points in children ... EPA must take the scientific advice to heart and further strengthen the standard, in light of the latest science, in order to protect Americas children from the tragic, lifelong effects of lead poisoning.
If youre thinking about doing any kind of renovations in your house, obviously, lead exposure should be seriously considered. The possibility of releasing toxic dust into the air is higher in a home built before 1978 (when the government banned lead-based paint in housing), and the turn of the century brownstone I live in most certainly has a few coats of lead paint on it. We rent, so we couldnt renovate even if we wanted to, but a new study from researchers at Cincinnati Childrens Hospital Medical Center found that interior renovation of older housing is associated with a modest increase in childrens blood lead level (BLL) and associated long-term health risks. The studys lead author and director is Adam Spanier, M.D., Ph.D. M.P.H., from the Pediatric Environmental Health and Lead Clinic at Cincinnati Childrens Hospital Medical Center. His co-author Stephen Wilson, M.D., from the Pediatric Academic Society (PAS), presented his findings in Honolulu over the weekend.
Their study looked at 249 kids living in homes built before 1978 and found that the ones who lived in houses where renovations had been done had higher blood lead levels than those in houses where none had been done. Those who lived through renovations had a 12% increase in mean blood lead level by age 2 compared to those who didnt.
The researchers also noted an association between high lead concentration in the buildings existing paint and the childs blood lead level. According to Dr. Spanier: Toxic agents such as lead could have long-term effects on childrens brain development even as early as when they are fetuses. If lead poisoning goes undetected and untreated in children, it has the potential to result in a number of neurodevelopmental issues, including ADHD and learning problems.
Children under the age of 6 are considered most at risk.
Here are The Daily Green's tips for identifying and eliminating lead hazards at home. Also keep in mind that even if youre not doing a renovation in your home, someone on your street may be, which can be just as hazardous to your family. If you see a dumpster collecting debris down the block, or work sites nearby, it might be worth talking to your pediatrician about a blood test.
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