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U.S. EPA lowers lead dust exposure levels

by Andrea Widener
June 30, 2018 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 96, Issue 27

Chipping lead paint on 1035 E. Oliver Street in Baltimore, MD.
Credit: Lloyd Fox/TNS/Newscom
The limit on lead dust from windows like this one in Baltimore would be lowered under a new EPA proposal.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wants to lower limits on lead dust on floors and window sills, the agency announced June 25. The new limits apply to pre-1978 housing and any child-occupied facility, such as a daycare or school. The proposed hazard standard for floors would fall from 430 µg/m² to 108 µg/m², and the acceptable level for windows would fall from 2,700 µg/m2 to 1,100 µg/m2. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has said that lead exposure is a priority at the agency, though most of his public statements focus on lead in drinking water rather than childhood exposure though paint. “Lead-contaminated dust from chipped and peeling lead-based paint is one of the most common causes of elevated blood lead levels in children,” Pruitt said in a statement announcing the lower levels. “Strengthening the standards for lead in dust is an important component of EPA’s strategy to curtail childhood lead exposure.” In 1978, EPA banned lead in residential paints, but it is still allowed in industrial paints. Lead is common in paints worldwide, especially in developing countries.


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