Biden-Harris Administration Strengthens Safeguards to Protect Families and Children from Lead in Contaminated Soil at Residential Sites

Utilizing updated, best available science, EPA lowers screening levels for the first time in 30 years

January 17, 2024

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WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is lowering recommended screening levels and strengthening guidance for investigating and cleaning up lead-contaminated soil in residential areas where children live and play. As a result of lower screening levels, EPA expects to investigate more residential properties for potential cleanup under the Superfund law and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. Today’s action delivers on the Biden-Harris Administration’s ongoing commitment to protect communities from lead poisoning, particularly in disadvantaged and overburdened communities facing multiple sources of lead exposure, advancing President Biden’s environmental justice goals.

“Every family and child, regardless of their zip code, deserves to live without worrying about the life-long health effects from exposure to lead pollution,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “Today’s action ensures that EPA uses the latest, best available science to protect children living and playing near sites contaminated by lead in soil.”

EPA is lowering the screening level for lead in soil at residential properties from 400 parts per million (ppm) to 200 ppm. At residential properties with multiple sources of lead exposure, EPA will generally use 100 ppm as the screening level.

Screening levels are not cleanup standards. While this update will help EPA site teams make site-specific cleanup decisions to protect nearby communities, EPA makes cleanup decisions specific to each site, using site-specific factors, including risk factors and community input that can vary from site to site.

The science is clear: there is no known safe blood lead level in children. In infants and children, lead can severely harm mental and physical development—slowing down learning and damaging the brain. In adults, lead can cause increased blood pressure, heart disease, decreased kidney function, and cancer. Communities often face multiple sources of lead exposure, including from lead-based paint, lead in soil, and lead in drinking water.

From day one, the Biden-Harris Administration has made protecting public health and advancing environmental justice a top priority, including by delivering on long overdue updates that follow the science. Updating the residential soil lead guidance is a significant milestone in EPA’s agencywide Strategy to Reduce Lead Exposures and Disparities in U.S. Communities, and aligns with the goals outlined in the Federal Lead Action Plan.

While the guidance goes into effect immediately, EPA welcomes feedback from the public that may be considered in any future updates to the guidance. Please submit written feedback on the guidance in the public docket (Docket ID: EPA-HQ-OLEM-2023-0664) for 60 days from January 17, 2024, to March 17, 2024.

For more information, visit the updated guidance webpage.