6.6. Lead (Pb)

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6.6. Lead (Pb)

6.6.1. Behaviour, effects, emissions

Lead is a pollutant in air mainly through its use as an additive to gasoline, in the form of organic lead compounds: tetraethyl and tetramethyl lead. Also, many metal smelters (lead, copper, zinc, iron, steel) emit significant amounts of lead to the atmosphere. Lead occurs in the atmosphere mainly in particulate form (in the fine particle fraction), but a small part occurs in vapour form as organic lead compounds.

The previously very widespread use of lead in gasoline has been substantially reduced in most parts of Europe since early 1980 especially, through the reduction of lead in gasoline, from typically 0.7-0.8 g/l to less than 0.15 g/l, and through the use of lead-free gasoline needed by catalyst cars.

Human exposure to lead is through inhalation of airborne lead and ingestion of lead in foodstuffs and beverages. While most airborne lead is man-made, an appreciable proportion of that in food and water is of natural origin. Nevertheless both deposition of airborne lead, and lead from other man-made sources (e.g. pipes and solders) contribute to dietary intake. Blood lead concentrations are a good indicator of recent exposure to lead from all sources, and adverse health effects tend to increase in severity with increasing blood lead level.

EPA standards are based upon the concept of a relationship between ambient air lead and blood lead concentrations, and presume that a blood lead level of
0.15 µg/ml (mean value for children) can be achieved at an ambient air lead level of 1.5 µg/m3 .

The most sensitive body systems to the effects of lead are the haematopoietic system, the nervous system and the renal system. In addition, lead has been shown to affect the normal functions of the reproductive, endocrine, hepatic, cardiovascular, immulogic and gastrointestinal systems. The most sensitive group to lead poisoning is children. Some studies indicate that children with high levels of lead accumulated in their baby teeth experience more behavioural problems, lower IQs and decreased ability to concentrate, although these findings are currently controversial.

Examples of some "lowest-observed-effect" levels for children (identified by the EPA) are: disturbance of haem synthesis via enzyme inhibition at 0.1 µg/ml, anaemia at 0.4 µg/ml, encephalopathic symptoms at 0.8 µg/ml.

Lead is generally toxic to both plants and animals, and although no serious effects are generally seen at current environmental levels, it is widely considered prudent to limit further dispersal of lead as far as is possible.


6.6.2. Air Quality Limit and Guide Values

EU Limit value and WHO Guideline value for lead is given in Table 6.25. The WHO Guideline value is lower than the EU Limit value by a factor 2-4.


Table 6.25: EU Limit Value for Pb (µg/m3). EU Council Directive 82/884/EEC. WHO Guideline value (µg/m3).

EU Limit value Mean of
24h values
Year 2
WHO Guideline value  
Year 0.5-1

6.6.3. Urban and local Pb concentrations

Concentrations

In Appendix B Pb data from 8 countries are given. The stations are ranged according to the annual mean values. The stations with the highest values are given in Table 6.26. Figure 6.61 shows 1993 Pb mean values for selected stations in some European cities.

Mean Pb levels in all cities in Table 6.26 are well below the EU Limit value and also below the WHO Guideline value. Levels above 0.3 µg/m3 are measured in some cities in Spain and Italy.

Pb annual mean levels from the selected cities in Figure 5.1/Table 5.2 are shown in Figure 6.62.

Table 6.26: Pb yearly mean values for 1993 for selected stations and cities (µg/m3).

 

Country

 

Name

City

Class

 

Station

Pb 24h values
Mean
Spain Barcelona 1 Moncada

0.429

 
Italy Genova   XX Settembre

0.42

1
Spain Barcelona 1 Molina Pl.

0.381

 
Italy Genova   Via Cantore

0.36

1
Spain Barcelona 1 Prat del Llobregat

0.344

 
Spain Barcelona 1 Poblé nov

0.337

 
Italy Modena   Via Giardini

0.32

1
Italy Modena   Via Garibaldi

0.28

1
Belgium Bruxelles 2 IHE Coute rue

0.278

 
Belgium Antwerpen 3 Elizabethziekenhuis

0.251

 
Italy Genova   Villa Raggio

0.25

1
Italy Modena   Via Cavour

0.24

1
Italy Forli   Via Le Roma

0.22

 
Switzerland Zürich 4 Schimmelstrasse

0.22

 
Italy Ferrara   Corso Isonzo

0.21

 
Italy Modena (region)   Timaro

0.2

1
Belgium Antwerpen 3 Kielpark

0.183

 
Switzerland Basel 4 Feldbergstrasse

0.18

 
Switzerland Bern 4 Bern

0.18

 
Germany Duisburg 3 Duisburg-Buchholz

0.17

 
Italy Genova   Rimessa Amt

0.17

1
Italy Genova   Magazzini Generali

0.17

1
Italy Genova   Villa Serra

0.17

1
Germany Dortmund 3 Dortmund-Mitte

0.16

 
Italy Genova   Multedo

0.16

1
Switzerland Lausanne 4 Lausanne

0.15

 

1. Data availability:<75%.

Figure 6.61: Pb yearly mean values for 1993 for selected stations and cities (µg/m3).


Figure 6.62: Pb mean values in selected cities (µg/m3).


Exceedances

In the data material available for this report, there are no exceedances of the EU Limit value or WHO Guideline value for Pb.


Trends

Only Denmark and Belgium have reported updated 1993/94 trends for lead in the APIS system. The trend Figure 6.63-Figure 6.64 show a considerable decrease in Pb levels since the early 1980’s due to reduced consumption of leaded petrol.


Figure 6.63: Pb trend in Aalborg, Denmark 1982-1994 and Antwerp, Belgium 1982-1993 (µg/m3). APIS data.


Figure 6.64: Pb trend in Liege, Belgium 1982-1994 (µg/m3). APIS data.

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