Tell FAA To Get the Lead Out of Avgas NOW!

  • By: Susan V
  • Target: Federal Aviation Administration
When it comes to reducing lead poisoning, the agency that regulates flight is moving at a snail’s pace. Now that lead has been banned from auto gasoline and removed from jet fuel, private airplane fuel (avgas) is the largest source of lead emissions in the US, and children living near airports have abnormally high blood lead levels.

This is far more serious than negative effects on individuals alone, Kevin Drum explains in a recent Mother Jones report. Drum found a very strong link between violent crime and lead exposure and that other explanations for crime rates fall short. But crime is not the only ill effect of this poison, says Drum. Even miniscule lead levels cause lower IQs, ADHD and other neurological or health disorders.

Though unleaded fuel will work in most aircraft, it’s not available at all airports, and environmental groups aren't happy that  FAA will take five years to provide lead-free avgas. This new MJ report makes the delay even less excusable. 

Tell FAA to get the lead out now! 

We, the undersigned, see no excuse for FAA waiting until 2018 to make unleaded avgas available at all airports.

It is equally disturbing that the EPA would go along with this delay after stating recently that “there is ‘no demonstrated safe concentration of lead in blood’” (Drum). 

In addition to showing a strong correlation between violent adult crime and childhood exposure to lead, Drum’s article explains in detail how lead “causes physical damage to the brain that persists into adulthood,” and he cites a long-term Cincinnati study that followed 300 exposed children for 30 years and other studies that showed, in summary, that “…lead’s effects are even more appalling, more permanent, and appear at far lower levels than we ever thought.”

Considering healthcare costs and adding the cost of crime on society, taking serious, immediate and decisive action to reduce lead exposures is a no-brainer. Drum calculates that cleaning up lead-contaminated soil and replacing windows in older homes alone would create over two hundred billion in returns at a fraction of the cost. These measures are important and necessary, but there is also an urgent need to get the lead out of avgas, which is a major source of soil lead contamination.

Although, according to a Bloomberg report last June, FAA says there's no current substitute for leaded avgas that would work in all aircraft, a former head of Cessna’s Textron engine and fuel research told Bloomberg that unleaded fuel will work in most private planes, and others can be modified to use it. Bloomberg was also told by a fuel distributor who advocates for alternative gasoline that “Government and industry could…do more to promote existing unleaded fuel….”  

Clearly both the EPA and the FAA are running out of justification for delaying this very necessary change. There’s no excuse for an agency that regulates flight to move at a snail’s pace to end lead emissions.

We request that FAA take action immediately to make unleaded avgas available at all airports.

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