Houston Levels of Lead Remain Well Below EPA’s Health Based Standard
What is Lead?
Lead is a naturally occurring element found in small amounts in the earth’s crust. While it has some beneficial uses, it can be toxic to humans and animals, causing severe health effects. Lead exposure can damage almost every system in the body, and at high levels can cause death.
Where is Lead Found?
Lead can be found in all parts of our environment – the air, the soil, the water, and even inside our homes. In the past, much of our exposure came from using leaded gasoline, which is now banned. However, certain types of industrial facilities such as lead smelters, and past use of lead-based paint in homes are now the main sources of exposure to lead. Lead and lead compounds have been used in a wide variety of products found in and around our homes, including paint, ceramics, pipes and plumbing materials, solders, gasoline, batteries, ammunition, and cosmetics.
Lead may enter the environment from these past and current uses. Lead can also be emitted into the environment from industrial sources and contaminated sites, such as former lead smelters. When lead is released to the air from industrial sources or vehicles, it may travel long distances before settling to the ground, where it usually sticks to soil particles. Lead may move from soil into ground water depending on the type of lead compound and the characteristics of the soil.
Federal and state regulatory standards have helped to minimize or eliminate the amount of lead in air, drinking water, soil, consumer products, food, and occupational settings. As a result of EPA’s regulatory efforts to remove lead from motor vehicle gasoline, nationally, levels of lead in the air decreased by 89 percent between 1980 and 2010.
To protect public health and the environment, the Clean Air Act requires the EPA to set health-based standards for six common pollutants including lead. State, federal, and local governments work with businesses and citizens to develop strategies to meet these standards. Air quality monitors located across the Houston region measure how much lead is in the outside air.
Houston has met the national standard for lead for many years now, and concentrations at all monitors are well below national standards.
For more information about lead, please visit: http://www.epa.gov/lead/