Victory: EPA Issues Final Endangerment Finding on Aircraft Lead Pollution

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a final “endangerment finding” on Wednesday about the harmful health impacts of lead pollution from small airplanes, which will trigger legal requirements for the EPA and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to regulate this dangerous source of pollution. 

EPA’s actions stem from a petition filed in 2020 by Friends of the Earth, CEH, and others represented by Earthjustice, together with the County of Santa Clara, California, and the Town of Middleton, Wisconsin.

Leaded aviation fuel (avgas) was banned 25 years ago in most motor vehicles, but avgas is still used in nearly 170,000 piston-engine aircraft across 20,000 airports. EPA estimates that emissions from these airplanes account for about 70% of lead released into the air.

“Leaded aviation fuel is the largest source of lead air emissions in the United States,” said Dr. Jimena Díaz Leiva, Science Director at the Center for Environmental Health. “We know that hundreds of thousands of children in the U.S. live, play, and attend school near general aviation airports, where they are breathing in lead from general aviation traffic. The EPA’s positive endangerment finding has been a long-awaited step towards permanently phasing out leaded aviation fuel. For too long low income communities and communities of color living closest to these airfields have been suffering the effects of lead exposure. We are proud to stand by so many community advocates and advocacy organizations who have fought tirelessly for this action.”