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Press Release

Chriss Swaney

For immediate release:
August 9, 2005

Carnegie Mellon Engineering Professor Tapped To Help Improve Archaic Lead Standards

Cliff Davidson
PITTSBURGH—Carnegie Mellon University's Cliff Davidson and Ph.D. student Allison R. Harris will meet Aug. 16 in Research Triangle Park, N.C., with members of an EPA panel of experts on lead to discuss outdated lead standards.

At present, lead standards for children are much higher than what they should be, according to Davidson, a professor in civil and environmental engineering.

"We are finding that lead exposure is lower than it used to be in the United States because of virtual elimination of lead in paints, gasoline and the food canning industry," Davidson said. "But exposure to this element can still be problematic at some locations."

And a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on human exposure to lead, tobacco and other environmental chemicals and toxins, said that by today's standards 1.6 percent of U.S. children have elevated blood levels, compared to 4.4 percent from 1991 to1994.

"During our meetings, we are going to be looking at scientific studies of lead research since the airborne lead standard was developed in 1978," said Davidson.

Much of the framework for EPA's lead standard was created during the 1960s and 1970s.

The airborne lead standard developed in 1978 was based on the assumption that 1 in 200 children would have blood levels exceeding 30 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood, the level considered elevated at that time.

"Today, we hope to have the fraction of children with that kind of exposure radically reduced," Davidson said.

Carnegie Mellon researchers have shown that potentially dangerous lead particulates are still found in many urban areas. These particles can travel thousands of miles in dust clouds reaching all corners of the earth. Lead is a known neurotoxin that can cause IQ deficits and behavioral problems in children.


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