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Area Designations for 2008 Lead Standards

Fact Sheet —Final Area Designations for the National Air Quality Standards for Lead Established in 2008


  • On November 16, 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) identified or “designated” areas as not meeting the national air quality standards for lead (Pb).  EPA revised the Pb standards to 0.15 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3) in 2008.
  • Today’s action designates 16 areas, including 17 partial counties, as “nonattainment areas.”  In most of these areas, EPA has accepted the state's recommendations.  Where we thought that changes to a state's initial recommendation were needed, we have worked with the state to revise the boundaries.  No areas in Indian Country are being designated nonattainment.
  • These areas will need to develop and implement plans to reduce pollution to meet the Pb standards. EPA based these designations on the most recent set of air quality monitoring data from 2007-2009 as well as other factors, analytical tools, and technical information.
  • EPA is designating areas for the revised Pb standards in two rounds.  In this first round, EPA is only designating areas that are nonattainment based on 2007-2009 air quality monitoring data.  EPA will designate the remaining areas in the country as attainment, unclassifiable, and/ or nonattainment in a second round of designations to be completed by October 15, 2011.  This will allow EPA to consider additional monitoring data from the recently expanded lead monitoring network.


  • Nonattainment areas include areas with monitors that violate a standard and the nearby areas that contribute to that violation. The Clean Air Act requires state, local and tribal governments to take steps to control pollution in Pb nonattainment areas. Those steps may include stricter controls on industrial facilities.
  • State and local governments must detail these steps in plans that demonstrate how they will meet the Pb standards. Those plans are known as state implementation plans, or SIPs. States must submit their plans to EPA within eighteen months after the effective date of the agency’s final designations.
  • Nonattainment areas are required to meet the standards by December 31, 2015.  If a nonattainment area fails to meet the attainment date, EPA has six months to make an attainment determination.  If EPA determines that an area failed to meet the standard, the state has 12 months to submit a SIP revision and up to five years to meet it.
  • Once designated, nonattainment areas are subject to new source review requirements. New Source Review is a permitting program for industrial facilities to ensure that new and modified sources of pollution do not impede progress toward cleaner air.


  • The Clean Air Act requires EPA to issue designations after the agency sets a new National Ambient Air Quality Standard or revises an existing standard.  Areas not meeting the standard are designated “nonattainment.”
  • On October 15, 2008, EPA revised the level of the primary (health-based) and secondary (welfare-based) standards for lead (Pb) from 1.5 micrograms per cubic meter (μg/m³) to 0.15 μg/m³ measured as total suspended particles (TSP).
  • EPA also revised the averaging time and form of the lead standards.  The calculation method for the averaging time is a “rolling” three-month period with a maximum (not-to-be-exceeded) form, evaluated over a three-year period.
  • In conjunction with strengthening the lead standards, EPA improved the existing lead monitoring network by requiring monitors to be placed in areas with sources such as industrial facilities that emit one ton or more per year of lead and at other sites.
  • In November 2008, EPA provided guidance to states and tribes for recommending nonattainment area boundaries for the Pb standards.   EPA also used these factors and additional analytical tools, and other relevant information, to make final decisions on nonattainment area boundaries:
    • Emission data
    • Air quality data
    • Population density and degree of urbanization (including commercial development)
    • Growth rates and patterns
    • Meteorology (weather/transport patterns)
    • Geography/topography (mountain ranges or other air basin boundaries)
    • Jurisdictional boundaries (e.g., counties, air districts, reservations, metropolitan planning organizations)
    • Level of control of emission sources
  • States and some tribes provided their initial designation recommendations in October 2009 based on the most recent three years of air quality monitoring data – generally 2006-2008.  In June 2010, EPA sent letters to state and tribal representatives responding to their initial recommendations for areas meeting and not meeting the Pb national ambient air quality standards.  States and tribes had 120 days to comment on EPA’s modifications to their recommendations, and to provide new information and analyses to EPA, if appropriate.
  • EPA also provided the public with an opportunity to comment on the Agency’s proposed modifications to the state and tribal recommendations and to offer additional information that could help establish the final nonattainment area boundaries. 


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