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Environ Health Perspect. 2009 Aug;117(8):1195-201. doi: 10.1289/ehp.0800534. Epub 2009 Apr 15.

A personal perspective on the initial federal health-based regulation to remove lead from gasoline.

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  • 1Division of International Training and Research, Fogarty International Center, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, Bethesda, Maryland 20892-2220, USA.



This article describes the personal experience and perspective of the authors, who had primary responsibility for drafting the initial health-based regulation limiting lead content of gasoline during the early 1970s while employed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).


Information used by the U.S. EPA in developing the initial health-based regulation limiting lead content of gasoline in December 1973 and studies documenting the impact of that and subsequent actions.


Among the lessons learned from this experience is the importance of having input from independent scientists to the regulatory decision-making process. This also demonstrates the critical role of independent peer-reviewed research, such as that supported by the National Institutes of Health, as well as research conducted by scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in delineating the consequences of lead exposure in the population.


Removal of lead from gasoline in the United States has been described as one of the great public health achievements of the 20th century, but it almost did not happen. The experience of the authors in developing this regulation may be helpful to others involved in developing health-based regulatory policy in the future.


The initial U.S. EPA health-based regulation to remove lead from gasoline is clearly an example where science successfully affected public policy. The leadership of the U.S. EPA at that time deserves much credit for establishing an atmosphere in which this was possible.


U.S. EPA; gasoline; government; health-based regulation; lead; policy

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