In late November, the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) determined that 17 counties in 11 states across the country are not meeting the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for lead. These areas were designated as “nonattainment” because their 2007 to 2009 air quality monitoring data showed that they did not meet USEPA’s health-based standards.

As a result of the designation, states with these nonattainment areas must develop a State Implementation Plan that meets the requirements of Sections 172(c) and 191 of the Clean Air Act and provides for attainment of the NAAQS as expeditiously as practicable, but no later than December 31, 2015. This designation, which covers such heavily populated areas as Los Angeles County, Tampa, FL and Cleveland, OH, will require the states to develop and implement monitoring programs, develop emission inventories, and adopt control strategies to limit lead emissions within the non-attainment areas.

Moreover, the November 22, 2010 rulemaking is just phase 1 of USEPA's evaluation, and more non-attainment determinations are expected next year. In order to collect and evaluate additional monitoring data, USEPA put off a final decision on many areas of the country until October 15, 2011. The second phase of the rulemaking may greatly increase the number of areas considered to be in non-attainment. For example, in USEPA Region 3 (Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia), USEPA only identified non-attainment regions for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. All other states within Region 3 were deferred until October 2011.

In 2008, USEPA revised the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for lead and lowered the standard from a level of 1.5 μg/m3 to a level of 0.15 μg/m3. In addition, the Administrator changed the averaging time and form of the standard to a rolling 3-month average evaluated over a 3-year period. The rule also established new requirements for lead monitoring networks, including the requirement that new lead monitors be located in close proximity to the largest lead emissions sources by January 1, 2010. The final rule revising the lead NAAQS was published in the Federal Register on November 12, 2008, and became effective January 12, 2009.