Airplanes = Largest Source of Lead Air Emissions

airplane photo

Image: Michael Gil via flickr

Get on a small plane, and carbon emissions aren't the only environmental problem to think about. Aviation fuel is the largest source of lead emissions, and Friends of the Earth is calling on the EPA to get it under control.The EPA identified at least 16 regions last month that do not meet clean air standards on airborne lead emissions, and just about every one of those regions contains an airport that allows leaded aviation fuel.

Nearly 20,000 airports in the U.S. allow leaded fuel, which is said to contribute half of the nation's total lead air emissions.

Marcie Keever, legal director of Friends of the Earth, which has been pushing the EPA to phase out lead from aviation since 2003, said:

"The recent findings of clean air violations reinforce our concerns: Fifteen of the sixteen areas declared to have unsafe levels of lead in air are in counties that contain at least one airport where lead is emitted."

...Leaded aviation fuel is primarily used in piston engine aircraft, which typically fly in and out of small and municipal airports. The EPA has found that communities living near airports, children attending school near airports, and airplane pilots, student-trainees, and passengers are all at risk of exposure to lead emissions from these aircraft. The EPA also noted potential harm from deposits of lead that collect on plants in agricultural areas where piston engine planes are used.

As FOE points out, the EPA phased out lead from gasoline for cars more than 14 years ago, it's time for the aviation industry to catch up.

More on the environmental impact of airports and airlines
Are Short Flights Polluting Your Neighborhood?
Airlines Toss Enough Cans Each Year to Build Fleet of Airliners, NRDC Says
Lush Founder Funds Heathrow Airport Activists

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