Lead (Pb)

Contact: Air Quality Related Issues: Robert Irvine, 517-648-7367
Agency: Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy

The most common sources of lead emissions are gasoline additives, non-ferrous smelting plants, and battery manufacturing. Historically, lead was added to gasoline as an additive to prevent engine knocking. The lead content of gasoline began to be controlled in the 1970s when legislation was introduced to gradually reduce lead levels. Currently, smelters and battery plants are the major sources of lead nationwide. Human exposure to lead can occur through ingestion or inhalation. The nervous system is most sensitive to the effects of lead and high exposures to lead can result in behavioral and learning disorders. Lead also may be a factor in high blood pressure and heart disease.

Concentrations of lead in the air decreased steadily in the 1980s after the removal of lead from gasoline. On October 15, 2008, USEPA revised the national ambient air quality Standards (NAAQS) from 1.5 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3) to 0.15 µg/m3.  On November 22, 2011, the USEPA designated all areas of Michigan as unclassifiable/attainment for the 2008 lead NAAQS, with the exception of a part of the City of Belding. This area was designated attainment on May 31, 2017.