Children who live near airports may be unwittingly exposed to dangerous levels of lead, a new study reveals.
A 10-year study released Tuesday on PNAS Nexus found elevated lead levels in the blood of children who lived adjacent to Reed Hillview Airport in Santa Clara County, California.
Studies show that the closer a child is to the airport, the more likely it is that their blood lead level will exceed the California-defined threshold of 4.5 micrograms per deciliter.
The authors acknowledge that the phasing out of tetraethyl lead from motor gasoline after the passage of the Clean Air Act of 1970 had a dramatic effect on blood lead levels in children in the United States. increase.
Despite this, leaded gasoline is still a standard part of aviation, and the fuel is used in about 170,000 piston-engine aircraft nationwide, they explained.
According to the National Business Aviation Association, such aircraft have one or more piston-driven engines (a type of reciprocating internal combustion engine) connected to a propeller to provide thrust to the vehicle.
Piston-engine aircraft typically use “low-lead” fuel and fly relatively short missions at altitudes below 15,000 feet, according to a Washington, DC-based trade group.
Such planes may be low-lead, but according to a PNAS Nexus study, the use of leaded aviation gasoline currently accounts for up to two-thirds of lead emissions in the United States.
And these emissions are affecting children who live near these airports, the researchers stressed.
Sammy Zahran, lead author and professor of economics at Colorado State University, said: statement.
“This demonstrates the need to support policy efforts to limit aviation lead emissions to protect the welfare of at-risk children,” added Zaran.
To draw conclusions, Zaran and his colleagues analyzed 14,000 blood samples from children under the age of 6 from 2011 to 2020.
The authors found that children living more than 1 mile from the airport were 21.4% less likely to have a blood sample crossing the threshold than those living within 0.5 miles of the airport. .
On the other hand, children who lived east and downwind of the airport were found to be 2.18 times more likely to have blood lead levels above this limit.
Studies have shown that blood levels in children increased with piston-engine aircraft traffic and with the amount of leaded aviation gasoline sold at airports.
About 4 million Americans live within 800 meters (0.5 miles) of airports serving piston-engined aircraft, the authors say, citing Environmental Protection Agency data.
About 600 elementary schools are also near such facilities, the researchers added.
Citing the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, the authors stressed that “lead does not appear to indicate a blood level without health effects.”
As such, they stressed the “dire need” to reduce lead emissions in aviation and improve the health and “life potential of children at risk.”