Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) helped protect the health of thousands of children by lowering the reporting threshold for lead compounds under the federal right-to-know law, affirming a Clinton administration EPA decision. Environmental Defense applauded the lowered reporting standard and called on EPA to further expand the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) right-to-know program, including lowering the reporting threshold for other heavy metals such as cadmium and reporting toxic chemicals in manufactured products.
"According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 900,000 American children aged one to five have unacceptably high levels of lead in their blood," said Environmental Defense senior engineer Lois Epstein. "EPA's lowered reporting threshold on lead will provide immensely useful information on determining the sources of toxic lead pollution. The EPA has helped to protect our nation's children from lead poisoning with these more comprehensive lead reporting standards."
In 1999, EPA lowered the threshold for reporting other toxic chemicals such as mercury that remain in the environment and concentrate in wildlife. Following the same methodology plus using data on the build-up of lead in humans, EPA finalized a rule in January 2001 lowering the reporting threshold for lead from 10,000 pounds (or 25,000 pounds for certain facilities) to 100 pounds. EPA also stated in the preamble to the rule that evidence may yet exist to lower the reporting threshold even further, to 10 pounds.
"EPA's cost-effective Toxics Release Inventory program provides the public with data on the sources of toxic pollution in America," said Epstein. "This information is the key to preventing pollution and improving public health. EPA's decision on lead reporting closes just one of the many gaps that exist in the federal right-to-know program and will be a boon to children's health."
Data from the 1999 Toxics Release Inventory were made public on April 11 in summary form. The new data show a 45% reduction in toxic chemical releases from core industries since the 1988 baseline year, and a decrease of 2.5% from 1998. This successful environmental program represents just 2/1000 of EPA's annual budget. The TRI summary can be found at www.epa.gov/tri on the Internet.