International Development, Community, and Environment

Title

Airborne Lead: A Clearcut Case of Differential Protection

Document Type

Article

Abstract

Airborne lead appears to be a clearcut example of such differential protection. The occupational standard provides that workers can be exposed to up to 50 μg/m3 (micrograms per cubic meter) over an 8-hour period. On the other hand, the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for lead for the general population limits exposure to only an average of 1.5 μg/m3 - apparently more than a thirty-fold difference in protection. However, care is needed in interpreting this apparent difference. The standards apply to different time periods and different exposed populations. In the present paper the authors discuss the way society views the protection of workers and the public. The body of the article is organized into four sections: (1) a survey of the kinds of theoretical considerations that, from first principles, could lead to different treatment of a particular hazard in different situations; (2) a review of the legal mandates of the two agencies (EPA and OSHA), showing how Congressional judgments embodied in law call for different treatment of scientific and technical information, and different agency actions; (3) a description of the agencies' actual regulatory decisions in the case of lead and the anticipated consequences; and (4) the answers to the following questions: (A) what do the different standards imply for the health and well-being of the exposed populations? (B) how can the origins of the differences between the two standards be best explained? (C) what if any justifications for the differences appear in the agency and judicial proceedings on the two standards? (D) what long-run strategic considerations may have affected the agencies' use of discretionary authority in these cases?

Publication Title

Environment

Publication Date

1-1-1982

Volume

24

Issue

1

First Page

14

Last Page

42

ISSN

0013-9157

DOI

10.1080/00139157.1982.9932462

Keywords

employees, air quality standards

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