Lead (Pb) is a soft, dense metal found naturally in the environment and in manufactured products, from ancient plumbing pipes (“Pb” comes from the Latin plumbum) to modern applications like paints and anti-knock fuel additives. The major sources of lead air emissions have historically been motor vehicles (such as cars and trucks) and industrial sources.
Lead is a highly poisonous metal, interfering with many body processes such as development of the nervous system, in part by inhibiting the body’s natural antioxidants. Lead’s neurotoxicity is a serious concern for children, causing permanent learning and behavior disorders, anemia, and, in severe cases, seizures and death. Lead also accumulates in our bodies, stored along with calcium in bone. Pregnant women are at risk due to their bones releasing calcium with lead for the fetus, which reduces growth and increases the risk of premature birth.
As a result of federal regulatory efforts to remove lead from motor vehicle gasoline, nationwide lead emissions decreased by 99.6 percent (220,000 tons) from 1970 to 2011, and the average monitored lead concentration has decreased by 92 percent from 1980 to 2013. Today the highest levels of lead in air are usually found near lead smelters, absent in Oklahoma. Major sources of lead emissions to the air today are ore and metals processing and leaded aviation gasoline. For lead, there is one combined primary and secondary federal standard of 0.15 micrograms per cubic meter (μg/m³) measured on a 3-month rolling average.
The Savanna lead monitoring site suspended operation in 2015; monitored levels were well below the standard. Lead is still monitored at the Peoria site in Tulsa. To measure lead, an air sampler pulls air for 24 hours across a glass fiber filter on a 6-day schedule. The samples are sent to an independent lab for analysis.
Most monitored lead values are so low that they are under the instrument minimum detection limit, which itself is well below the standard and not a health concern.
Primary/Secondary Lead Standard = 0.15 μg/m³ (Rolling 3-month avg)
The primary and secondary standards are measured as total suspended particles (TSP) collected on a filter. Monitored lead concentrations in Oklahoma are well below the standards.
2015 Tulsa-Peoria Lead Values vs Rolling 3 Month NAAQS
Rolling 3 month Lead avg (μg/m³)