EPA director Scott Pruitt. Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Orders EPA to Propose New Lead Standard

When it comes to lead safety, the Environmental Protection Agency hasn’t released new rules since 2001, which leave much to be desired for child protection as there is no safe amount of lead exposure. Even the previous administration was aware of the regulations’ shortcomings, though the EPA dragged its feet as long as it could.

The Obama administration acknowledged the need for new restrictions on the lead content of paint, dust, and soil in 2011. But it never actually did anything about it. In fact, the EPA didn’t even set a timeline for when it planned to address the issue.

Now with Trump in office, the new administration showed no plans to hurry the development of a new lead paint rule. In fact, it asked for six more years to create the new standards. The courts had a different opinion on the matter, issuing a much more expedient ruling.

But on Wednesday, the court ordered Scott Pruitt’s agency to propose a new standard within 90 days, and to finalize that new rule no later than one year after that. In a 2-to-1 ruling, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found that “the children exposed to lead poisoning due to the failure of E.P.A. to act are severely prejudiced by E.P.A.’s delay.”

“Indeed E.P.A. itself has acknowledged that ‘lead poisoning is the number one environmental health threat in the U.S. for children ages 6 and younger,’” the ruling noted. “We must observe … that E.P.A. has already taken eight years, wants to delay at least six more, and has disavowed any interest in working with petitioners to develop an appropriate timeline through mediation.”

Previously, the lead renovation certification, as well as other disciplines, aimed to mitigate the dangers of lead exposure. However, there is always more work that can be done. With this order now on the books, the government will have to better prioritize the well-being of millions of American children and take the first steps in the coming months toward implementing a more effective rule.

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