Aviation and Toxic Lead Exposure

Links to Scientific American articles on the Serious Health Impacts of Toxic Lead Exposure

By Miki Barnes, MSW, LCSW
May 28, 2013

Washington County residents are routinely exposed to well over a ton of highly toxic lead emissions annually, due in large part to relentless aviation activity. Among the biggest offenders are flight training and recreational flyers. Hillsboro Airport alone is responsible for emitting 0.7 tons of lead per year during the landing and take-off (LTO) phases of flight. According to EPA documentation, HIO ranks in the top one percent, 21st in the nation, out of almost 20,000 airports in lead emissions during LTO. Additional lead is released during the cruise phase.

Stark's Twin Oaks and other Washington County airports also release this extremely poisonous substance on a near daily basis, as do overflights and training activity from airports located in nearby jurisdictions including Columbia, Yamhill, Multnomah, and Marion counties. Other offending airports include, but are by no means limited to, Scappoose, McMinnville, Aurora, PDX, and Troutdale.

An extensive body of literature attesting to the negative health effects of lead resulted in the discontinuation of lead as a paint additive in 1978 and its removal from automotive fuel between 1973 and 1996. Yet despite this knowledge, the aviation industry continues to manufacture piston engine aircraft that utilize leaded fuel.

Due to serious concerns about the impact of this toxin and other aviation generated impacts on the health and well being of the community and the environment, Oregon Aviation Watch will occasionally post links to articles that address these issues.

The Scientific American articles below correlate repeated and chronic exposure to lead, even at levels previously considered to be safe, with the following conditions:
    • impaired cognition
    • attention deficit disorder
    • lower academic test scores for children
    • diminished IQ's
    • psychiatric disorders
    • increased blood pressure
    • hypertension
    • arrhythmia
    • dementia
    • increase in violent crime rates
    • kidney damage
    • damage to central nervous system
    • red blood cell damage
    • decreased immune system functioning
    • likely carcinogen

These impacts come at a significant cost, approximately $209 billion a year. "The bill includes everything from medical costs to heightened need for special education classes and incarcerations for violent crime, which also correlates with higher lead exposure."

A 21/17/13 Scientific American report by Mark Fischetti, Lead Exposure on the Rise Despite Decline in Poisoning Case, reports that lead exposure continues to be a serious problem and further notes that "that many of the health complication from lead arise even at low exposures."

For the complete article, see http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=lead-exposure-on-the-rise.

A 9/13/12 Scientific American link poses the question: Does the Continued Use of Lead in Aviation Fuel Endanger the Public Health and the Environment? General aviation fuel is now responsible for more than 50% of the lead emitted into the air in the U.S.

For the complete article, see http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=lead-in-aviation-fuel.

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