Friends Of The Earth
Pressures EPA To Get The Lead Out Of Avgas
By Shane Nolan
May 29, 2011 - Friends of the Earth, a leading advocate
for a healthier environment, sent a notice of intent to
sue the Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday
regarding its failure to respond to a 2006 petition
asking for the regulation of lead emissions from general
aviation aircraft under the Clean Air Act.
The petition specifically asked the EPA to find that
lead emissions from aircraft using leaded aviation
gasoline (avgas) may endanger public health.
Nearly five years later, despite continuing to
acknowledge that there is no safe threshold for lead
exposure, the EPA has taken no final action with regard
to Friends of the Earth?s petition.
?The EPA has repeatedly concluded that lead is extremely toxic to humans, wildlife and the environment and causes a variety of health effects even at low doses,? said Marcie Keever, legal director for Friends of the Earth.
letter puts the EPA on notice that we will go to court unless
EPA does what the law requires and addresses this pollution. The
health of airport workers, pilots, passengers, and surrounding
communities from continued exposure to lead in aviation gasoline
hangs in the balance.?
was phased out of automobile gasoline over 15 years ago, it
persists as a constituent of avgas, resulting in aviation being
the single largest source of lead emissions in the U.S. and
posing a significant threat to public health--especially in
communities located near airports where avgas is used.
To date, the EPA has identified approximately 20,000 airports at which leaded avgas may be used. Sixteen million people reside and 3 million children attend school in close proximity to these facilities. Reinforcing the need for immediate action, in November 2010, the EPA identified 16 regions in the United States that fail to meet clean air standards for airborne lead emissions.
these regions are in counties that contain at least one airport
where lead is emitted.
In addition, earlier this month, the Center for
Environmental Health filed suit against major leaded aviation
fuel suppliers citing excessive water and air pollution around
25 airports in California.
airlines use unleaded jet fuel, general aviation aircraft using avgas
account for about half of the national inventory of lead emitted to air.
In total, the EPA estimates that approximately 14.6 billion gallons of
leaded avgas were consumed between 1970 and 2007, emitting approximately
34,000 tons of lead. Currently 70 percent of small planes could be using
unleaded fuel or a modified alternative without any additional
Conditions associated with lead exposure are well known to health professionals and public health officials. These include death and brain damage due to high levels of exposure, and learning disabilities, lower IQ levels, increased blood pressure, and/or nerve damage at lower exposures. Children are at higher risk than adults because they absorb larger amounts of lead and are more sensitive to lead induced toxicity.
In fact, a 2005
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study on Preventing lead
poisoning in young children found that there is no safe threshold for
lead exposure in children.
As far back as
1989 a Federal Aviation Administration document recognized ?the
attractiveness of using automobile gas (autogas) in light aircraft,?
stating that several common aircraft models were fully certified by the
FAA to use autogas and that the cost of autogas was substantially less
than avgas. It was the FAA?s expectation that as regular leaded autogas
was phased out, more aircraft would be using unleaded autogas in the
engines. But for decades
since the EPA began regulation of lead emissions from other sources, it
has excused the general aviation community.
is unquestionably the leading source of airborne lead,? said Deborah
Behles, Associate Professor and Staff Attorney at the Environmental Law
& Justice Clinic at Golden Gate University School of Law. ?Taking all of
the evidence together, we must address this critical health issue and
start phasing out lead in aviation gas now.?
?Given the EPA?s recognition of the harmful effects of lead emissions and the tremendous amount of lead emissions that still come from aircraft, we believe that the EPA will eventually take action,? said Marianne Engelman Lado, the lead Earthjustice attorney representing Friends of the Earth. ?At the same time, in the interest of public health, the EPA?s failure to take timely action on Friends of the Earth?s petition is inexcusable. We are simply asking the EPA to move more quickly in establishing regulations that would protect millions from ill health caused by the known toxic effects of lead.?
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