Clinic’s work results in new EPA lead standard

Students, faculty and staff in the Interdisciplinary Environmental Clinic (IEC) have been instrumental in bringing about a significantly reduced ambient air standard for lead.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new national standard is a direct result of a lawsuit the IEC filed in federal court on behalf of the Missouri Coalition for the Environment and former Herculaneum residents in May 2004.

Announced Oct. 16, the new standard is one-tenth of the old standard, which was set in 1978. The previous standard long ago ceased to protect public health, as the Clean Air Act requires. Teams of law, medical and environmental studies and engineering students have worked on the case for years with clinic attorneys, environmental engineers and scientists.

“The new rule has its flaws, in our view, but it’s a dramatic improvement,” said Maxine Lipeles, J.D., IEC director and senior lecturer in law. “We are proud to have played a part in bringing about this new standard, which will positively affect the health and welfare of the public, and especially children who are particularly vulnerable to lead poisoning.”

The clinic originally filed the lawsuit to force review of the standard and participated in each step of the review process.

Law students prepared briefs and argued in federal district court. Medical students and environmental studies and engineering undergraduates prepared detailed written comments critiquing the highly technical documents prepared by the EPA throughout the review.