Lead Toxicity and General Aviation Aircraft

[Editor's note] The message below is from Avi Allison of Earthjustice.

Posted on OAW January 13, 2012

Do you live within a mile of an airport used by general aviation aircraft? Do you feel threatened by the possible negative health impacts resulting from lead exposure due to lead in aviation gasoline? Do you have anxiety about lead exposure; especially exposure to children? Read through this email and then contact Avi Allison, Litigation Assistant for Earthjustice, who would be happy to provide more information to anyone who is interested - aallison@earthjustice.org.

I am writing on behalf of Earthjustice, a non-profit environmental law firm dedicated to defending the right of all people to a healthy environment. Earthjustice is currently involved in a case on behalf of Friends of the Earth regarding the continued use of lead in aviation gas (avgas). Despite the elimination of lead from motor vehicle gas and the widespread acknowledgment that no quantity of airborne lead can be deemed safe, airplanes continue to emit tons of lead every year. The impacts of these emissions are particularly strong in communities near airports. Over 20,000 airports still use leaded avgas, and millions of people in nearby communities suffer the consequences. The community around Portland-Hillsboro Airport is particularly at risk, as Portland-Hillsboro is responsible for over 1,000 pounds of annual lead emissions.

Five years ago, Friends of the Earth filed a petition seeking to compel the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate lead in aviation fuel. Since the EPA failed to respond to this petition, Earthjustice recently filed a notice of intent to sue, and are hoping to file suit within the next month. As they prepare for this filing, they are reaching out to individuals and organizations who are concerned about lead poisoning and aviation pollution. There are opportunities for stakeholders to speak to the press and to get involved in other ways. Avi Allison, Litigation Assistant for Earthjustice would be happy to provide more information to anyone who is interested.

Avi Allison, Earthjustice Legislative Assistant, can be reached at T: 212-791-1881 ext. 8230.

[Oregon Aviation Watch Comments]

Lead Emissions at Oregon Airports

There are over 450 general aviation airports in Oregon. Below is a list of 20 Oregon airports with the highest estimated lead emissions in 2002. Lead emissions are listed in tons per year. This information is from an October 2008 report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Lead Emissions from the Use of Leaded Aviation Gasoline in the United States - Technical Support Document. (EPA20-R-08-020). Assessment and Standards Division Office of Transportation and Air Quality, http://www.epa.gov/ttn/chief/net/tsd_avgas_lead_inventory_2002.pdf.

This is only a partial list. At least 50 Oregon airports were named in the report.

AirportCountyLead Emissions (Tons per Year)
HillsboroWashington County  0.6
Portland InternationalMultnomah County  0.4
Corvallis MunicipalBenton County  0.3
Eugene Mahlon Sweet FieldLane County  0.2
AuroraMarion County  0.2
Scappoose Industrial AirparkColumbia County  0.2
McMinnville MunicipalYamhill County  0.2
Troutdale AirportMultnomah County  0.2
Rogue Valley InternationalJackson County  0.2
Robert's FieldDeschutes County  0.1
Salem McNaryMarion County  0.1
Astoria RegionalClatsop County  0.1
North Bend MunicipalCoos County  0.1
Independence StatePolk County  0.1
Bend MunicipalDeschutes County  0.1
MulinoClackamas County  0.1
Klamath FallsKlamath County  0.1
Eastern Oregon RegionalUmatilla County  0.1
Hobby FieldLane County  0.1
Columbia Gorge RegionalKlickitat County  0.1

Study Finds That Children Living Near Airports Have Higher Blood Lead Levels

In July of 2011 Miranda et al. published a study analyzing blood lead levels of children living around airports in six counties of North Carolina. The Miranda 2011 Study, entitled "A Geospatial Analysis of the Effects of Aviation Gasoline on Childhood Blood Lead Level," was conducted by the Children's Environmental Health Initiative, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina.

The Miranda 2011 Study concluded, "living within 1000 m [2/3 mile] of an airport where aviation gasoline is used may have a significant effect on blood lead levels in children. Our results further suggest that the impacts of aviation gasoline are highest among those children living closest to the airport."

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), "no level of lead in a child's blood can be specified as safe." For additional information on this topic see Children and Leaded Aviation Fuel on this website.

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