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CANADIAN MINING PERSPECTIVES: VIEWPOINT Taking lead off the toxic list

Regulators in the U.S. are pondering whether lead should be removed from a list of regulated pollutants. Have toxin...



Regulators in the U.S. are pondering whether lead should be removed from a list of regulated pollutants. Have toxins in the air affected their thinking?

Lead has been linked to learning difficulties in children and ill health in adults. Before it was placed on the list of regulated pollutants, lead used to be added to gasoline, paint, household plumbing, and a wide range of items used every day by consumers.

Now the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, as part of its regular five-year review, plans to evaluate the status of lead as an air pollutant, reported PLANET ARK, a service that distributes world environmental news (www.PlanetArk.com). Reportedly, the EPA says that between 1980 and 2005 the concentration of lead in the environment has dropped more than 90%. The decrease is largely due to the elimination of lead from automotive gasoline. Planet Ark points out that one of the largest sources of lead in the environment is now the battery industry, and that it is the Battery Council International which is urging the EPA to “delete lead from the criteria pollutants.”

News of the U.S. move comes just as Canadian scientists are urging Prime Minister Stephen Harper to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) to ensure it reduces our exposure to toxic substances. Over 700 of this country’s most celebrated academics and researchers sent the letter noting four areas for improvement: 1) protecting sensitive ecosystems; 2) setting deadlines for each stage from assessment to management of potentially toxic substances; 3) shifting the onus onto the manufacturers to prove their products are safe; and 4) regulation of potentially harmful substances in consumer products. Learn more or add your signature to the letter at www.ScientistsForAHealthyEnvironment.ca.

Also this week, the Government of Canada is announcing plans to require vehicle manufacturers and steel mills to remove mercury switches from automobiles before they are recycled. That is another move in the right direction for this country.

The contemplated move by the EPA is coming under fire from watchdog groups and U.S. lawmakers. I hope they prevail.

Amounts of lead and many more potentially harmful substances must be reduced in the environment. No one wants to live and work in an environment that damages their health, and no one should have to. The affects of lead on children is particularly worrisome.

The most responsible industries will always make the extra effort to provide stewardship of their products and the materials used in their manufacture. Sometimes it takes government to force the rest to do so, in order to protect its citizens. This is one of those times.


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