Aviation
6:02 am
Thu March 8, 2012

Environmental Group Sues EPA Over Leaded Airplane Fuel

SEATTLE -- Small airplanes are the leading source of lead pollution in the nation’s air. Activists are suing the EPA to get the lead out of aviation fuel. KUOW's John Ryan reports.

The group Friends of the Earth petitioned the EPA six years ago to regulate leaded aviation fuel. Now they’re suing. Lead has long been known to cause brain damage, even in small doses.

Leaded gasoline was phased out starting in the 1970s, and lead levels in America's air plummeted. But aviation fuel has remained leaded. It’s less than 1 percent of the nation’s fuel use. It now accounts for half the nation’s airborne lead.

The EPA has begun monitoring lead near 15 airports. The list includes two in the Northwest: Harvey Field in Snohomish, northeast of Seattle, and Auburn Municipal Airport, south of Seattle.

The EPA has no timeline for deciding whether airport emissions endanger public health. Sixteen million Americans live near airports where leaded fuel is burned.

Companies in Indiana and Oklahoma claim to have developed unleaded substitutes for aviation gas. Those fuels are awaiting federal approval.

Copyright 2012 KUOW