Clinic's Work Results in New EPA Lead Standard

Students, faculty, and staff in the Interdisciplinary Environmental Clinic (IEC) have been instrumental in bringing about a new ambient air standard for lead. The EPA’s new national standard is a direct result of a lawsuit the IEC filed in federal court on behalf of the Missouri Coalition for the Environment and former Herculaneum residents in 2004.

Announced on October 16, 2008, the new standard is one-tenth of the old standard, which was set in 1978. The previous standard long ago ceased to protect public health, as the Clean Air Act requires. Teams of law, medical, and environmental studies and engineering students over the years have worked on the case with clinic attorneys, environmental engineers, and scientists.

“The new rule has its flaws, in our view, but it’s a dramatic improvement,” notes Maxine Lipeles, IEC director. “We are proud to have played a part in bringing about this new standard, which will positively affect the health and welfare of the public, and especially children who are particularly vulnerable to lead poisoning.”

The clinic originally filed the lawsuit to force review of the standard and participated actively in each step of the review process. Specifically, law students prepared briefs and argued in federal district court. Medical and undergraduate environmental studies and engineering students prepared detailed written comments critiquing the highly technical documents prepared by the EPA throughout the review.

Residents in Herculaneum, Missouri, in particular, have been exposed to high levels of ambient air lead contamination as an industrial by-product.

 [View New York Times article]