Tuesday, January 17, 2006

NASCAR Update: A New Warning from EPA; Clean Air Watch urges monitoring effort; researchers find elevated lead levels in NASCAR team

Below are several related items regarding lead emissions from NASCAR vehicles:

1) Excerpts from a new EPA study raising concerns about emissions from leaded gasoline at NASCAR events and a link to the study itself;

2) A letter from Clean Air Watch to EPA calling on the agency to monitor lead emissions at NASCAR events; and

3) An abstract of a study by researchers from the Indiana University School of Medicine who found elevated lead levels in a NASCAR team

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1) From a new EPA study:


http://cfpub.epa.gov/ncea/cfm/recordisplay.cfm?deid=141779

Volume 1, page 2-42-2-43

Emissions from Racing Vehicles

Vehicles used in racing (including cars, trucks, and boats) are not regulated by the EPA according to the Clean Air Act, and can therefore use alkyl-lead additives to boost octane. Data on Pb levels in racing fuel and rates of Pb emissions are scarce. The U.S. Department of Energy stopped tracking information on the production of leaded gasoline for non-aviation use in 1990
(U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2002). However, the National Motor Sports Council
reports that approximately 100,000 gallons of leaded gasoline were used by National Association for Stock Car Automobile Racing (NASCAR) vehicles in 1998 (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2002).

As was the case with on-road emissions during the time of universal leaded gasoline use, the combustion of racing fuel likely elevates airborne Pb concentrations in the nearby area. This may pose a serious health risk to some subpopulations such as residents living in the vicinity of racetracks, fuel attendants, racing crew and staff, and spectators.

The EPA has formed a voluntary partnership with NASCAR with the goal of permanently removing alkyl-Pb from racing fuels used in the Busch, Winston Cup, and Craftsman Truck Series (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2002).

Emissions from the combustion of leaded fuel are generally in the form of submicron particles of inorganic Pb halides.

In addition to racing vehicles and piston engine aircraft, legally permitted uses of leaded fuel include construction machinery, agricultural equipment, logging equipment, industrial and light commercial equipment, airport service equipment, lawn and garden equipment, and recreation equipment including boats, ATVs, jet skis, snowmobiles, etc., (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2000). Given the relative unavailability of leaded fuel, it is unlikely that it is commonly used for any of these purposes other than racing vehicle
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Clean Air Watch
1090 Vermont Avenue, NW, Suite 800Washington, DC 20005
(202) 558-3527


January 13, 2006


Mr. Stephen Johnson
USEPA Headquarters Ariel Rios Building 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. Mail Code: 1101A Washington, DC 20460


Dear Mr. Johnson:

I am writing to you about the need to monitor toxic lead emissions that could harm the health of people attending or living near NASCAR races.

As you probably know, the Clean Air Act exempts gasoline used in racing cars from the general ban on leaded gasoline.

The EPA reportedly has been working for several years in a “partnership” with NASCAR to encourage a voluntary phase-out of leaded gasoline. NASCAR reports to me that it has not yet found what it considers a suitable substitute.

Sincere NASCAR lead emissions are likely to continue unabated for the foreseeable future, I was struck by a passage in the recently published EPA draft criteria document for lead, in which EPA scientists note that “the combustion of racing fuel likely elevates airborne Pb concentrations in the nearby area. This may pose a serious health risk to some subpopulations such as residents living in the vicinity of racetracks, fuel attendants, racing crew and staff, and spectators.”

Separately, researchers from the Indiana University School of Medicine recently reported that 40% of tested NASCAR team members had high levels of lead in their blood.

As the EPA itself has reported, lead causes damage to the kidneys, liver, brain and nerves, and other organs. Even low levels of lead damage the brain and nerves in fetuses and young children, resulting in learning deficits and lowered IQ.

Because of the extraordinarily toxic nature of lead, most of the world has moved to eliminate its use in gasoline. The Washington Post reported earlier this month, for example, that all of sub-Saharan Africa has ended production of leaded gasoline.

Unfortunately, the health protections given to those in sub-Saharan Africa are not shared by children and others attending NASCAR events or living near race tracks.

Because EPA has determined that NASCAR lead emissions “may pose a serious health risk,” the agency should conduct a few simple tests to find out if that threat is real. And so I am requesting that, as you develop EPA’s new budget request to Congress, you include a request for appropriations to monitor for lead emissions at NASCAR race events. I am sure that a modest amount of money would either document the concerns raised by the agency, or put those concerns to rest.

Thank you for taking time to review this matter. I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Frank O’Donnell
President
Clean Air Watch

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3) American Public Health Association133rd Annual Meeting & ExpositionDecember 10-14, 2005 Philadelphia, PA


3024.0: Monday, December 12, 2005 - 8:30 AM

Abstract #99917

Blood lead levels in NASCAR racing teams

Joseph O'Neil, MD, Section of Developmental Pediatrics, Indiana University School of Medicine, Riley Hospital for Children, 702 Barnhill Drive, Room 1601, Indianapolis, IN 46202, 317-274-4846, joeoneil@iupui.edu, Gregory K. Steele, DrPH, MPH, Department of Public Health, Indiana University School of Medicine, 1050 Wishard Blvd. RG 4165, Indianapolis, IN 46202, C. Scott McNair, MD, Private Physician, 1393 Celanese Rd, Rock Hill, SC 29732, and Matthew Matusiak, PhD, Marion County Health Department, 3838 North Rural Street, Indianapolis, IN 46211.
Blood lead levels in NASCAR racing teams

NASCAR is the only major autosport using lead-containing fuel. Leaded gasoline exhaust may result in elevated Blood Lead Levels (BLL). In adults this may be associated with cognitive and physical disorders. Early identification and removal of lead is the treatment of choice. This pilot study determines if NASCAR racing teams have BLL >10 µg/dl.

Drivers, pit crews, and mechanics of a NASCAR racing team were stratified by proximity to fuel exhaust or engine components. After informed consent, each participant completed a self-reported survey recording demographics, lead exposure and any physical symptoms of lead toxicity. Blood lead levels were measured. Data analysis was performed using measures of association and linear regression analyses.

BLL of 47 NASCAR drivers and team members were measured with a range of 1-22 µg/dl and a median of 9 µg/dl. A linear regression model identified exposure to exhaust as significant factor for a BLL > 10 µg/dl with a relative risk of 1.43 (95% CI: 1.09, 1.87). Increased relative risks of self-reported cognitive and physical symptoms were reported with a BLL > 10µg/dl.

The study demonstrated that 40% of this NASCAR team had a BLL > 10 µg/dl. Lead is not a naturally occurring metal in man and any level could be considered abnormal. Efforts to reduce lead exposure by either reducing or eliminating lead in the gasoline, protective equipment and frequent hand washing should be implemented.

Learning Objectives:

Assess the effect of leaded gasoline on a NASCAR racing team
Identify occupational and environmental risk factors for elevated blood lead levels
Discuss methods to reduce elevated blood lead levels in NASCAR racing teams
Keywords: Environmental Health Hazards, Lead

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

I wish to disclose that I have NO financial interests or other relationship with the manufactures of commercial products, suppliers of commercial services or commercial supporters.

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SD said...

How about the EPA try doing something real for a change and leave professional motorsports alone. When a governmental entity has to stoop to hitting on motorsports to gain headlines then it's high time someone put a stop to governmental interference. The EPA was one of those good ideas that is radically destroying the US economy. One of those good ideas that gets taken too far by extremists. Somehow, I feel that the EPA should be staffed by real live scientists working for the people instead of zealots trying to cause more trouble.

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Linda said...

I am a huge fan of NASCAR but also of breathing clean air! Has NASCAR responded to the EPA about the air pollution issue or driver and pit crew safety? I know that NASCAR is very concerned with their image and with safety so I’m interested to hear what they had to say.

NASCAR THINGS: NASCAR THINGS

Frank O'Donnell, Clean Air Watch said...

Yes, NASCAR has announced it will shift to unleaded fuel in 2008.