A senior scientist for the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) proposed maximum permissible levels of lead in drinking water should be cut in half, from 20 parts per billion (ppb) to 10 ppb. The current EPA standard is 50 ppb. The new standard is scheduled to be put into effect by 1988 but would not be enforceable by states until 18 months later.
Dr. Ellen K. Silbergeld of EDF says a majority of Americans now have amounts of lead in their bloodstreams that are higher than the level considered dangerous to health. She said drinking water accounted for about 40% of the blood lead levels, with the rest coming from gasoline fumes and other pollution, lead in the soil, paint and other materials. Dr. Silbergeld called lead poisoning "our most prevalent environmental disease."
The director of the drinking water office of the EPA said that, in light of several studies that suggest that
lead at levels lower than 20 parts per billion could result in some adverse health effects, the agency is
reanalyzing its data and considering an even tougher standard. The president of the Lead Industries
Association calls the EDF talk of a lead epidemic "irresponsible and self-serving," saying other civilized
countries considered 50 to 100 parts per billion safe.
--Peter Montague, Ph.D.
Descriptor terms: disease; u.s.; lead; blood; drinking water; air pollution; automobiles; edf; ellen silbergeld; lead industries association; epa; regulations;