Kentucky is in compliance with the country’s National Ambient Air Quality Standard for lead, which was updated three years ago, and is stricter than it used to be. Lead is emitted mostly from facilities that manufacture products like batteries and aluminum. John Gowins with the Division of Air Quality says it’s significant that Kentucky is in compliance, because the Environmental Protection Agency recently enacted much stronger standards.
“They did that in 2008, and it took several years worth of monitoring data for us to determine what the status was in Kentucky,” he said.
The ambient air quality standards used to require compliance with 1.5 micrograms of lead per cubic meter. The new lead standard is ten times tighter.
Andrea Smith from the Division of Air Quality says there are lead monitors in Madison, Boyd, Pulaski and Jefferson Counties. Lead emissions don’t travel far, so all the monitors are located next to facilities with significant lead emissions.
“We actually looked at the facilities that had lead emissions,” she said. Those that were of concern to EPA, we isolated those, did some modeling data to determine where the largest impact would be of lead, and then put our monitors accordingly.”
All of the state’s lead monitors were in compliance with the new standard.
Lead levels in the U.S. are on the decline, but studies still show that even low levels of lead exposure can cause behavioral problems and learning disabilities in children.