EPA proposes deeming lead in aviation fuel a danger to public health

Source: BY RACHEL FRAZIN, The Hill • Posted: Sunday, October 9, 2022

A flag of the Environmental Protection Agency is seen outside their headquarters in Washington, D.C., on June 3
Greg Nash

The Environmental Protection Agency  has proposed declaring lead in aviation fuel a public health danger, taking a step toward regulating this type of pollution from planes.

Exposure to lead can cause kidney and brain damage, and is particularly harmful to children.

Lead is used in fuel for piston-engine aircraft, which are usually small planes that carry between two and 10 people. As of 2014, there were about 140,000 of those in the U.S. Commercial planes use fuel that doesn’t contain lead.

Air around some airports has been found to have unsafe levels of lead, according to the EPA.

The agency has also found that about 5 million people live within 500 meters of an airport runway, and 163,000 children attend schools within 500 meters of a runway.

Friday’s proposal is not a regulation of these aircraft or the fuel. Instead, it is a finding that, if finalized, would set the EPA on a path toward regulation, which would require additional steps.

Nevertheless, EPA Administrator Michael Regan described his agency’s move as an important step toward protecting people.

“When it comes to our children the science is clear, exposure to lead can cause irreversible and life-long health effects,” Regan said in a statement. “Aircraft that use leaded fuel are the dominant source of lead emissions to air in the country. Today’s proposal is an important step forward as we work to reduce lead exposure and protect children’s health.”

Friday’s news is the result of an evaluation that the agency launched in January. The agency plans to finalize its proposed endangerment finding next year and is expected to propose to regulate leaded aviation fuel sometime after that.