Three Groups File Petition asking EPA to Address Lead in AvGas

Three leading advocacy groups are petitioning the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to take action to address harms caused by lead in aviation fuels. The petition was filed on April 21, 2014, by Oregon Aviation Watch (OAW), Friends of the Earth, and Physicians for Social Responsibility. Others connected to the filing include Earthjustice and The Environmental Law and Justice Clinic.

Lead Emissions by Sector, 2008

Aircraft 571.49 tons
Industrial Processes 248.06 tons
Electric Generation 59.78 tons
Industrial Boilers 48.38 tons
all other sources 35.78 tons
Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

The first U.S. federal efforts to eliminate hazardous lead were made by EPA, more than forty years ago. Lead was removed from paint and automotive fuel by the mid-1990’s. In the area of aviation, though, almost no progress has been made: due to ongoing delays by FAA, lead continues to be added to the aviation fuel used by most small aircraft. In fact, entire new aviation technologies have emerged, with thousands of new aircraft constructed, still using engines that burn leaded aviation fuel. Thus, General Aviation has become the largest source of U.S. lead emissions, producing nearly 60% of all emissions.

EPA is in the middle of a study which purports to monitor lead emissions at seventeen GA airports. Preliminary data reported in June 2013 identified two airports which exceeded safe lead levels, for which EPA created information sheets. One was San Carlos ([KSQL], between the San Francisco and Palo Alto airports in California). The other was the McClellan-Palomar Airport [KCRQ],  north of San Diego, in Carlsbad, CA. A more inclusive set of data is due out later this year.