U.S. EPA to Evaluate Whether Lead Emissions from Piston-Engine Aircraft Endanger Human Health & Welfare

WASHINGTON – The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced yesterday that it will evaluate whether emissions from reciprocating motor aircraft operating on leaded fuel contribute to air pollution that endangers public health and welfare. The Agency plans to issue a proposal for public review and comment in 2022 and take final action in 2023.

“Protecting children’s health and reducing lead exposure are interlocking priorities at the core of the EPA’s agenda,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “The EPA has been researching for years the impact on air quality of lead emissions from reciprocating motor aircraft near airports, and now we will use this information to determine whether this pollution endangers human health and well-being.”

While the level of airborne lead in the United States has dropped by 99 percent since 1980, piston motor aircraft operating on leaded fuel are the largest remaining source of lead emissions to air.

Lead exposure can come from several sources, including leaded paint, contaminated soil, industrial emissions from battery recycling or metal treatment, and incineration of fuel or waste containing lead. Children’s exposure to lead can cause irreversible and lifelong health effects. A safe level of lead in the blood of children has not been identified. Even low levels of lead in the blood have been shown to affect IQ, the ability to pay attention and academic achievement. In adults, health effects from lead exposure may include cardiovascular effects, increased blood pressure and the occurrence of hypertension, renal impairment and reproductive problems.

Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA reviews information on air pollutants and sources of air pollution to determine whether they threaten human health or well-being. This is referred to as a “danger find”. The EPA is currently planning to issue a proposed hazard finding for piston motor aircraft running on leaded fuel in 2022 for public review and comment. After evaluating the comments on the proposal, we plan to issue a final statement of danger in 2023.

Yesterday’s action responds to petitions from the Alaska Community Action on Toxics, the Center for Environmental Health, Friends of the Earth, the Montgomery-Gibbs Environmental Coalition, the Oregon Aviation Watch, the County of Santa Clara, and the Town of Middleton, WI.

More information on the petition’s response and EPA’s activities on lead emissions from piston engines can be found here: https://www.epa.gov/regulations-emissions-vehicles-and-engines/petitions-and-epa-response- memorandums-related-lead

Originally published by US EPA.

Featured photo of Chait Goli from Pexels.

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