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EPA Relaxes Lead Rules

Nov 25, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP

Last month, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved what the LA Times called “a tough new rule” against lead in the air.  But the paper is now reporting that federal documents confirm that the Bush administration amended the rule quietly, releasing a number of lead polluters from the rule and weakening the monitoring of factories producing lead emissions.

Exposure to lead in children and unborn children can cause brain and nervous system damage, behavioral and learning problems, slowed growth, hearing problems, headaches, mental and physical retardation, and behavioral and other health problems.  Lead is also known to cause cancer and reproductive harm and, in adults, lead can damage the nervous system.  

Once poisoned by lead, no organ system is immune.  Unfortunately, lead poisoning is difficult to recognize because it manifests with subtle symptoms and there are no definitive indicators that point to lead contamination.  For instance, children with lead poisoning may experience irritability, sleeplessness or excess lethargy, poor appetite, headaches, abdominal pain with or without vomiting—and generally without diarrhea—constipation, and changes in activity level.  

A child with lead toxicity might be iron deficient and pale because of anemia and can be either hyperactive or lethargic.  There may also be dental indicators such as lead lines on gingival tissue.  When faced with peculiar symptoms that do not match any one particular disease, lead poisoning should be considered.

The federal rule was employed because of research indicating that lead is even more dangerous that initially believed, with low levels causing problems that include “learning disabilities, aggression, and criminal behavior later in life,” said the LA times.  As we have long been reporting, many experts believe there is no safe level of lead exposure.

According to the Washington Post, the Bush administration's move prompted resistance from senior EPA officials.  Regardless, the new  revision eased the standard for the amount of allowable lead in the air, and reduced  monitoring of lead emitted by known polluters.  Because of this, dozens of factories will not receive regular review, notes the LA times.  "This sleight of hand by the administration ignores major sources of a dangerous neurotoxin," S. William Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies told the LA Times.

According to federal records, the White House ordered the EPA to raise the monitoring threshold just after industry lobbyists met with Bush administration officials, said the LA Times.


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