Yes, it's true. Small planes spread toxic lead into our air, soil and rivers. Lead bio-accumulates. Young children are particularly vulnerable to the toxic effects of lead and can suffer profound and permanent adverse health effects, particularly affecting the development of the brain and nervous system. Lead also causes long-term harm in adults, including increased risk of high blood pressure and kidney damage. Exposure of pregnant women to high levels of lead can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth and low birth weight.
People can become exposed to lead through occupational and environmental sources. This mainly results from:
Inhalation of lead particles generated by burning materials containing lead, for example, during smelting, recycling, stripping leaded paint, and using leaded gasoline or leaded aviation fuel.
Ingestion of lead-contaminated dust, water (from leaded pipes), and food (from lead-glazed or lead-soldered containers).
The EPA is evaluating the air quality impact of lead emissions from aircraft using leaded aviation gasoline as described in the Federal Lead Action Plan to Reduce Childhood Lead Exposures and Associated Health Impacts and in response to petitioner’s requests.The materials provided here describe methods to calculate airport lead inventories, fact sheets on air quality monitoring at airports, a report and fact sheet on model-extrapolated estimates of lead concentrations at airports and estimates of the number of people who live near or attend school near airports.
In the United States, general aviation piston-driven aircraft are now the largest source of lead emitted to the atmosphere. Elevated lead concentrations impair children’s IQ and can lead to lower earnings potentials. This study is the first assessment of the nationwide annual costs of IQ losses from aircraft lead emissions. We develop a general aviation emissions inventory for the continental United States and model its impact on atmospheric concentrations using the community multi-scale air quality model (CMAQ). We use these concentrations to quantify the impacts of annual aviation lead emissions on the U.S. population using two methods: through static estimates of cohort-wide IQ deficits and through dynamic economy-wide effects using a computational general equilibrium model. We also examine the sensitivity of these damage estimates to different background lead concentrations, showing the impact of lead controls and regulations on marginal costs. We find that aircraft-attributable lead contributes to $1.06 billion 2006 USD ($0.01–$11.6) in annual damages from lifetime earnings reductions, and that dynamic economy-wide methods result in damage estimates that are 54% larger. Because the marginal costs of lead are dependent on background concentration, the costs of piston-driven aircraft lead emissions are expected to increase over time as regulations on other emissions sources are tightened.
Background: Aviation gasoline, commonly referred to as avgas, is a leaded fuel used in small aircraft. Recent concern about the effects of lead emissions from planes has motivated the U.S. Environmental Protection to consider regulating leaded avgas.
Objective: In this study we investigated the relationship between lead from avgas and blood lead levels in children living in six counties in North Carolina.
Methods: We used geographic information systems to approximate areas surrounding airports in which lead from avgas may be present in elevated concentrations in air and may also be deposited to soil. We then used regression analysis to examine the relationship between residential proximity to airports and North Carolina blood lead surveillance data in children 9 months to 7 years of age while controlling for factors including age of housing, socioeconomic characteristics, and seasonality.
Results: Our results suggest that children living within 500 m of an airport at which planes use leaded avgas have higher blood lead levels than other children. This apparent effect of avgas on blood lead levels was evident also among children living within 1,000 m of airports. The estimated effect on blood lead levels exhibited a monotonically decreasing dose–response pattern, with the largest impact on children living within 500 m.
Conclusions: We estimated a significant association between potential exposure to lead emissions from avgas and blood lead levels in children. Although the estimated increase was not especially large, the results of this study are nonetheless directly relevant to the policy debate surrounding the regulation of leaded avgas.
On May 25 and June 26, 2020 letters were sent to the City Council of Vancouver, Washington about the nuisance aircraft flying out of Pearson Field (KVUO) and the concern for their impact on our community.