New York, NY
Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced new lead screening levels for residential soil from 400 parts per million (ppm) to 200ppm. For residential areas experiencing multiple sources of lead exposure, the screening level acceptable would drop to 100ppm. Additionally, EPA announced newly strengthened guidance for investigating and cleaning-up lead contaminated soil in residential areas. This is expected to increase the number of residences screened for elevated levels of soil-lead and facilitate eventual clean-ups.
For many years, Earthjustice has urged the EPA to update its lead standards and cleanup efforts. In 2020, it joined partner organizations in releasing Poisonous Homes: The Fight for Environmental Justice in Federally Assisted Housing, a report that found approximately 70,000 people living in federally assisted housing are at risk of exposure to high levels of lead and other contaminants due to living near superfund sites.
Lead exposure continues to disproportionately impact numerous communities of color and those of low wealth. After the release of the new guidance, Eve Gartner, Earthjustice’s Director of Crosscutting Toxics Strategies, issued the following statement:
“We commend EPA for taking long overdue action to recognize that frontline communities living on or near Superfund sites often face multiple exposures to lead. With the existing screening levels failing to protect public health, we are hopeful this change will hasten the cleanup of contaminated sites and significantly reduce lead exposure to communities across the country. Still, many sites will merit an even lower site-specific screening level based on the lead exposure pathways.
“Lead exposure from various sources continues to disproportionately impact communities of color and those of low-income. We applaud EPA for this guidance that will save lives and urge the agency to adopt mandatory soil lead hazard standards for broad application—not just for superfund sites.”