The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined that emissions of lead from aircraft that operate on leaded fuel “cause or contribute to air pollution” — a threat to public health and an obstacle under the Clean Air Act.
EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan encouraged the the Biden-Harris Administration to move forward in the process to “propose new standards to protect all communities from the serious threat of lead pollution from aircraft.”
The science is clear: exposure to lead can cause irreversible and life-long health effects in children. Aircraft that use leaded fuel are the dominant source of lead emissions in our air.Michael S. Regan, EPA Administrator
With this finding, EPA too is set to propose and promulgate regulatory standards for lead emissions from certain aircraft engines. Under its own statutes, EPA said the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) must develop standards that address the composition, chemical, or physical properties of an aircraft fuel or fuel additive to control or eliminate aircraft lead emissions.
For that matter, EPA and FAA started considering regulatory options to address lead emissions from aircraft engines and will announce timelines as soon as possible, according to EPA’s press statement. EPA and FAA will work in partnership and engage all interested stakeholders and the general public as the two agencies develop their separate regulatory actions, reads the notice.
Aircraft that operate on leaded aviation gasoline are typically small piston-engine aircraft that carry 2-10 passengers. These aircraft are approximately 45 to 47 years old, on average, depending on the type of aircraft. Jet aircraft used for commercial transport, on the other hand, do not operate on leaded fuel.
Levels of airborne lead in the US have declined 99% since 1980, but emissions from aircraft that operate on leaded fuel may still pose risks to nearby communities, including those with environmental justice concerns.
“Communities where general aviation airports are located – including in East San Jose – have suffered from lead exposure and pollution for years,” said Republican Ro Khanna (D-CA). “Children living near the Reid-Hillview Airport, which has a flight path over my district, have been found to have lead in their blood.”
House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Ranking Member Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) commended EPA’s determination and called for swift action from the Congress and industry to stop the use of leaded aviation fuel.
“While today’s announcement is a step forward, we cannot be complacent. We must finish the job and protect our nation’s children from all sources of lead,” said Lofgren.