News releases

Bluewater Network Files Petition

Posted Oct. 30, 2008 / Posted by: RConnors

Contacts: Danielle Fugere (415) 544-0790 x15

Bluewater Network, a division of Friends of the Earth, will file a petition on October 12 urging EPA to reduce or eliminate lead from general aviation aircraft gasoline. EPA has failed to require the phase-out of lead from aviation fuel despite repeatedly concluding that lead is an extremely toxic pollutant, causing a variety of health effects even at low doses. Bluewater’s petition seeks to protect the health of airport workers, pilots, passengers, and surrounding communities from continued exposure to lead in aviation gasoline.

“The potential health impacts are a concern because studies increasingly show that any exposure to lead is not safe,” said Danielle Fugere, Legal Director for Bluewater Network. The list of health harms associated with lead exposure is long, ranging from death and brain damage due to high levels of exposure, to learning disabilities, lower IQ levels, increased blood pressure, and/or nerve damage, at lower exposures. Children are at higher risk than adults because they absorb larger amounts of lead and are more sensitive to lead induced toxicity. “There is no excuse for EPA’s continued failure to protect public health,” said Fugere, “EPA took the lead out of car gasoline a decade ago, and safe, unleaded fuels exist for the majority of general aviation aircraft.”

It has been more than 10 years since EPA required the complete phaseout of lead in gasoline for cars. In closing the books on leaded car gasoline in 1996, the Administrator of EPA recognized that "[t]he elimination of lead from gas is one of the great environmental achievements of all time….” “Unfortunately, EPA claimed victory too soon,” said Fugere, “the final chapter on lead in gas won’t be written until lead is removed from general aviation aircraft fuel.” General aviation, which does not include jet airplanes, comprises approximately 125.5 annual tons, or about 88 percent of lead from all mobile sources.

“Safe unleaded alternatives to aviation gasoline already exist,” said David Zizmor, clinician with Golden Gate University’s Environmental Law and Justice Clinic, who co-authored the petition for Bluewater Network. “Nearly seventy percent of general aviation aircraft can safely use either standard unleaded automobile gas or a modified alternative, and ethanol-based fuel can potentially be used by the remaining thirty percent of planes,” noted co-author Damir Kouliev.

In addition to health impacts, environmental resources and ecosystems near airports are at risk from lead in aviation fuel, which is highly persistent in the environment. Emitted as particles, lead is often transported far from the original source. Lead is deposited or blown into surrounding fields and forests and it makes it way into streams and waterways. In farming areas, when lead is deposited onto soils, forage areas, and farm ponds, exposure to humans can occur from the contamination of food-animals.


Bluewater Network - a division of Friends of the Earth
311 California, Suite 510, San Francisco, CA 94104
T: (415) 544-0790

Friends of the Earth 
1717 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Suite 600
Washington, D.C. 20036-2002
T: (202) 783-7400

« Back to main page