When Presidents leave office, it is not uncommon for them to enact rules or laws that will increase their favorability ratings. Often, rules proposed by Presidents at the end their administration are subject to increased scrutiny by the successor President.
Such may be the case concerning the new Right to Know lead rules which were placed into effect by the Clinton Administration on January 8th of this year. The news is good news for communities that may have lead problems, generally older, urban areas. Of course, lead problems are found in every American community.
As a back drop to all of this, just about everyone now agrees that lead can make people very ill. While anyone can become injured, children and the unborn seem to be most at risk.
According to some scientists, and I believe this to be generally recognized, lead exposure can lead to brain damage and central nervous system damage. Children with learning problems in some instances may also have been exposed to lead and other symptoms can also be connected to lead poisoning. Lead poisoning is a very large problem in the United States. Many communities have lead abatement programs.
Lead paint, which has not be used for many years, has been a big culprit. But, it is not the only culprit. According to the EPA, lead poisoning adversely affects approximately one million children per year in the United States. This means that even though we have been aware of the lead danger for over a decade,the problem has by no means, no means at all, disappeared.
The Clinton Administration’s rule is a “reporting” rule. It will not eliminate lead, but rather will help community members become aware when a lead threat is present. Under existing law, companies that process or store lead must report information relating to lead discharges to the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory, or “TRI.” Under this new rule, the reporting thresholds have been dramatically lowered for lead. That means that companies that did not have to previously report lead release information to the TRI will now have to do so.
Why is this a big deal? Because the TRI has so much wonderful information for neighborhood residents. It is available from the EPA, and it can also be found on the internet. Community members can use the TRI to learn about hazardous threats in their own neighborhood. And now, much more lead related information will become available. According to the EPA, a growing group of individuals who use the TRI consists of concerned citizens who rely on the database to raise and answer questions about chemical releases in their community. Citizens who review and understand the TRI can become more aware of toxic chemicals in their neighborhoods. In addition, the database provides a basis for ongoing dialogue between local companies and community residents, which can ultimately result in a change of practices and improvement to the local environment.
It takes a while for this information to be released by the EPA in the form of an updated TRI report. Frankly, it seems to take too long.
The 1998 information was only just released last May. Better later than never, but that time lapse should be reduced. This information is simply too important to be delayed.
And understanding the TRI is important for those readers who want to learn more about hazards and risks in their community. The TRI is complicated at first glance. With some effort, it can turn into an important watch dog tool.
There is more good lead news as well. This past December, the Clinton Administration also proposed new tougher lead standards. What this means is that previously acceptable levels of lead will no longer be permitted and more lead cleanups wills be required. So, school yards, classrooms, playgrounds, and other areas where children are found will now be cleaner.
We have been given two final lead-related gifts from the departing President. Will the new President try to undo this? We have been told that he will evaluate “last minute” regulatorychanges, so time will tell.