Air Quality Criteria For Lead (Final Report, 2006)

National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) are promulgated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to meet requirements set forth in Sections 108 and 109 of the U.S. Clean Air Act. Those two Clean Air Act sections require the EPA Administrator (1) to list widespread air pollutants that reasonably may be expected to endanger public health or welfare; (2) to issue air quality criteria for them that assess the latest available scientific information on nature and effects of ambient exposure to them; (3) to set primary NAAQS to protect human health with adequate margin of safety and to set secondary NAAQS to protect against welfare effects (e.g., effects on vegetation, ecosystems, visibility, climate, manmade materials, etc); and (5) to periodically review and revise, as appropriate, the criteria and NAAQS for a given listed pollutant or class of pollutants.

Lead (Pb) was first listed in the mid-1970’s as a criteria air pollutant requiring NAAQS regulation. The scientific information pertinent to Pb NAAQS development available at the time was assessed in the EPA document Air Quality Criteria for Lead; published in 1977. Based on the scientific assessments contained in that 1977 lead air quality criteria document (1977 Lead AQCD), EPA established a 1.5 µg/m3 (maximum quarterly calendar average) Pb NAAQS in 1978.

To meet Clean Air Act requirements noted above for periodic review of criteria and NAAQS, new scientific information published since the 1977 Lead AQCD was later assessed in a revised Lead AQCD and Addendum published in 1986 and in a Supplement to the 1986 AQCD/Addendum published by EPA in 1990. A 1990 Lead Staff Paper, prepared by EPA’s Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards (OPQPS), drew upon key findings and conclusions from the 1986 Lead AQCD/Addendum and 1990 Supplement (as well as other OAQPS sponsored lead exposure/risk analyses) in posing options for the EPA Administrator to consider with regard to possible revision of the Pb NAAQS. However, EPA chose not to revise the Pb NAAQS at that time. Rather, as part of implementing a broad 1991 U.S. EPA Strategy for Reducing Lead Exposure, the Agency focused primarily on regulatory and remedial clean-up efforts to reduce Pb exposure from a variety of non-air sources that posed more extensive public health risks, as well as other actions to reduce air emissions.

The purpose of this revised Lead AQCD is to critically assess the latest scientific information that has become available since the literature assessed in the 1986 Lead AQCD/Addendum and 1990 Supplement, with the main focus being on pertinent new information useful in evaluating health and environmental effects of ambient air lead exposures.

This includes discussion in this document of information regarding: the nature, sources, distribution, measurement, and concentrations of lead in the environment; multimedia lead exposure (via air, food, water, etc.) and biokinetic modeling of contributions of such exposures to concentrations of lead in brain, kidney, and other tissues (e.g., blood and bone concentrations, as key indices of lead exposure).; characterization of lead health effects and associated exposure response relationships; and delineation of environmental (ecological) effects of lead. This final version of the revised Lead AQCD mainly assesses pertinent literature published or accepted for publication through December 2005.

The First External Review Draft (dated December 2005) of the revised Lead AQCD underwent public comment and was reviewed by the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) at a public meeting held in Durham, NC on February 28-March 1, 2006. The public comments and CASAC recommendations received were taken into account in making appropriate revisions and incorporating them into a Second External Review Draft (dated May, 2006) which was released for further public comment and CASAC review at a public meeting held June 28-29, 2006. In addition, still further revised drafts of the Integrative Synthesis chapter and the Executive Summary were then issued and discussed during an August 15, 2006 CASAC teleconference call. Public comments and CASAC advice received on these latter materials, as well as Second External Review Draft materials, were taken into account in making and incorporating further revisions into this final version of this Lead AQCD, which is being issued to meet an October 1, 2006 court-ordered deadline. Evaluations contained in the present document provide inputs to an associated Lead Staff Paper prepared by EPA’s Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards (OAQPS), which poses options for consideration by the EPA Administrator with regard to proposal and, ultimately, promulgation of decisions on potential retention or revision, as appropriate, of the current Pb NAAQS.

Preparation of this document has been coordinated by staff of EPA’s National Center for Environmental Assessment in Research Triangle Park (NCEA-RTP). NCEA-RTP scientific staff, together with experts from academia, contributed to writing of document chapters. Earlier drafts of document materials were reviewed by scientists from other EPA units and by non-EPA experts in several public peer consultation workshops held by EPA in July/August 2005.


EPA announces the availability of EPA's final document, Air Quality Criteria for Lead, as described in a September 29, 2006 Federal Register Notice.


EPA's Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards (OAQPS) prepares a staff paper that bridges the gap between scientific assessments in the criteria document and judgments required of the EPA Administrator in evaluating whether to retain or revise the Lead NAAQS. Further information on this process is available at


U.S. EPA. Air Quality Criteria For Lead (Final Report, 2006). U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC, EPA/600/R-05/144aF-bF, 2006.


Date Description
01-Dec 1977EPA releases the Air Quality Criteria for Lead (Final) (EPA-600/8-77/017)
02-Jun 1986EPA releases the Air Quality Criteria for Lead (Final) (EPA-600/8-83/028a-dF)
03-Aug 1990EPA releases the Air Quality Criteria for Lead: Supplement to the 1986 Addendum (EPA 600 9-89/049F)
04-2004EPA begins the mandated periodic revision of the Lead Criteria Document.
05-Jan 2005CASAC and the public review and comment on the Project Work Plan for the Lead Criteria Document.
06-Dec 2005EPA releases the first external review draft of the Lead Criteria document.
07-May 2006EPA releases the second external review draft of the Lead Criteria document.
08-Oct 2006EPA releases the Final Lead Criteria Document (EPA/600/R-5/144a-bF).

Additional Information

The document is divided into two volumes:
  • Volume I includes the Executive Summary and Chapters 1 through 8
  • Volume II includes the annexes to Chapters 4 through 7.
Other Sources:

This document has been reviewed in accordance with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency policy and approved for publication. Mention of trade names or commercial products does not constitute endorsement or recommendation for use.