EPA Proposes Rule to Phase out Lead from Aviation Fuel

EPA Proposes Rule to Phase out Lead from Aviation Fuel

For Immediate Release

Danielle Fugere, Friends of the Earth, (415) 577-5594, [email protected]
Deborah Behles, Golden Gate University School of Law, Environmental Law & Justice Clinic, (415) 369-5336 [email protected]

EPA Proposes Rule to Phase out Lead from Aviation Fuel
Friends of the Earth petition prompted EPA rulemaking

Washington, D.C.–The Environmental Protection Agency responded to a petition from Friends of the Earth yesterday by announcing an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding harmful lead in airplane fuel. While the notice acknowledges many problems that are caused by lead in aviation fuel, the EPA has not yet proposed means of addressing the problems.

Friends of the Earth, represented by the students at the Golden Gate University School of Law Environmental Law and Justice Clinic, raised the issue of the potential endangerment to public health from the use of lead in aviation fuel to the EPA in 2003. Friends of the Earth then filed a petition in 2006 urging the EPA to phase out lead in aviation fuel to protect human health and the environment. Lead is a harmful and toxic chemical that can cause brain damage, lowered IQ levels, increased blood pressure, and nerve damage. No amount of lead exposure is safe.

Danielle Fugere, regional program director for Friends of the Earth, had the following response:

“While we appreciate that the EPA is acknowledging the problems with lead in aviation fuel, it is moving much too slowly. The EPA has more than sufficient information to find that lead from this source endangers public health. There is ample evidence that lead emissions endanger and will continue to endanger public health and welfare. There is no safe exposure level for lead: even small, discrete doses from aircraft emissions can have long-term health and environmental impacts.

“It has been more than 14 years since the EPA required the complete phase-out of lead in gasoline for cars. The final chapter on lead in gas will not be written until lead is removed from general aviation aircraft fuel. Friends of the Earth will continue to work to ensure that the EPA develops a strong emissions standard for lead in aviation fuel.”

In the notice made public today, the EPA recognizes that lead emitted by piston-engine aircraft operating on leaded avgas is the largest source of lead to the air, comprising about 50 percent of the National Emission Inventory in 2005. The EPA also notes that monitoring studies indicate that lead levels in ambient air at or near airports with piston-engine activity are higher than lead levels in areas not directly influenced by a lead source. In addition, the EPA found that “the continued use of lead in avgas by piston-engine aircraft is a significant source of current lead emissions to the environment. Piston-engine aircraft emissions of lead occur at ground level as well as at flying altitude. Lead from this source is thus concentrated near airports and is also deposited over a large geographic area potentially contributing to higher ambient concentrations in many communities. Numerous groups within the population may be at risk.

The EPA found that communities living near airports; children attending school near airports; and pilots, student-trainees, and passengers are all potentially exposed to lead emissions from piston engine aircraft that use leaded avgas. The EPA also noted that deposition of lead on plants in agricultural areas where these planes are used is also potentially harmful.


Friends of the Earth and our network of grassroots groups in 77 countries fight to create a more healthy, just world. Our current campaigns focus on clean energy and solutions to global warming, protecting people from toxic and new, potentially harmful technologies, and promoting smarter, low-pollution transportation alternatives.

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