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In 2003, Friends of the Earth petitioned the US EPAto get lead out of aviation gasoline. While there had been much discussion about taking lead out of racing vehicle gasoline, aviation gasoline actually releases much more lead into the environment than racing.

Eight years later, the EPA might be getting close to doing something about it. The EPA has been monitoring lead emissions around airports for several years, and upgraded that monitoring on December 14, 2010. In the spring of 2010, the EPA published an “Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Lead Emissions from Piston-Engine Aircraft Using Leaded Aviation Gasoline.” Under the Federal Register Notice, published April 28, 2010, the public comment period was set to end on June 28, 2010. The comment period was extended an additional 60 days until August 27, 2010, and the comments have been under study ever since.

According to the EPA:

• Approximately 14.6 billion gallons of leaded avgas were consumed between 1970 and 2007, emitting approximately 34,000 tons of lead.

• Lead concentrations in air increase with proximity to airports where piston-engine aircraft operate.

• Lead emitted in-flight is expected to disperse widely in the environment because lead is emitted as a small particle and can travel widely before depositing to soil, water, vegetation or other surfaces.

• Approximately 16 million people live within one kilometer of the approximately 20,000 airport facilities in the U.S.

• Over 3 million children attend school within one kilometer of the approximately 20,000 airport facilities.

Canada still allows lead in aviation gasoline, despite its impact on people near airports. Lead emissions from airplanes and their fuel aren’t even reported through the National Pollutant Release Inventory. (Airports only report the chemicals that they use, not what the airlines or private pilots use.) Have I missed something?

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