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Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Clean Air Watch challenges NASCAR to “get the lead out”

Clean Air Watch
1090 Vermont Avenue, N.W.
Suite 800
Washington, DC 20005


January 19, 2005


Mr. Brian Z. France
Chairman and CEO
National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing
1801 W. International Speedway Blvd.
Daytona Beach, FL 32115

Dear Mr. France:

I am writing on behalf of Clean Air Watch, a national non-profit organization, to urge your organization to take a step to improve public health by eliminating the use of leaded gasoline in NASCAR races.

By permitting the continued use of lead, your organization may be putting millions of spectators and nearby residents at unnecessary risk of suffering serious health effects, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

You are probably aware of the many health problems linked to lead exposure: According to the EPA, 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. A recent study by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health found that lead exposure could contribute to mental lapses among older segments of the population. High lead exposure has been linked to reproductive problems including decreased sperm count and spontaneous abortions. Other problems associated with lead exposure include seizures, mental retardation, behavioral disorders, memory problems, high blood pressure and increased heart disease.

Removing lead from the gasoline used by highway vehicles is one of the great public health success stories in recent times. Because of the ban on lead in highway gasoline, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that levels of lead in the air have dropped by 94 percent since 1980 – and that this has led to a huge drop in lead levels in peoples’ blood.
Because of the clear public health threat, lead is being eliminated from gasoline throughout most of the world. It has already been banned in such places as Beijing, El Salvador and Thailand, and is even being phased out in such lesser-developed nations as Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

However, as you probably know, Congress did not give EPA authority to ban leaded gasoline in racing cars. Even so, the continuing potential health risk has prompted EPA since at least the year 2000 to urge NASCAR to “voluntarily” eliminate this toxin. Indeed, the EPA reported in 2000 that a “priority activity” was to “coordinate with NASCAR and NASCAR sponsors to encourage a voluntary unleaded phase-in partnership/program to eliminate the use of leaded gasoline in the auto racing industry.” EPA said it was motivated because the continuing use of leaded gas at NASCAR races “potentially puts certain subpopulations at risk,” including race spectators and “residents (particularly children) near sources such as race tracks.”

I sincerely hope you will act promptly to “get the lead out,” so that NASCAR spectators may enjoy the racing experience without facing any unnecessary health risks. If Kazakhstan can eliminate lead from gasoline, why can’t NASCAR?

Sincerely,



Frank O’Donnell
President
Clean Air Watch
www.cleanairwatch.org

41 comments:

Chef Reality said...

Dear Frank,

Airplanes and race cars are trying to find a viable substitute for lead in their fuel. I think both industries are fully aware of the effects of lead, as it's been well documented for years.

While I enjoy clean air, I would not look forward to airplanes falling from the sky because their engines seize due to pressure from the EPA, and groups like yours.

I've always been amazing by these groups who do nothing about the situation at hand. Rather than complaining about lead, and working for a nonprofit group where people spend money to help your cause, why don't you get some type of education to help out the problem? Learn about what lead does to engines, rather than people (since we already know what effects it has,) and perhaps brainstorm and find an alternative to an important ingredient in fuel.

Sure, places like Beijing, El Salvador and Thailand has done a great job eliminating lead, as well as places like Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

Hmm. I don't believe I've heard of NASCAR of Kazakhstan or NASCAR of Uzbekistan.

The comment in your letter to NASCAR, "If Kazakhstan can eliminate lead from gasoline, why can’t NASCAR?" has got to be one of the most foolish things I've ever heard.

To everyone: beware of falling airplanes. And to NASCAR, it would really be unfortunate if half the field in a race blows up engines. NASCAR would be put in it's grave, thanks to groups like Clean Air Watch.

Please do not donate money to groups who just gripe and moan about the problems. They are not the ones who work hard day in and day out trying to find the solutions, they are the hypocrites who sit there and make everyone else do the dirty work.

Laura said...

Airplanes and race cars are not the only users of leaded fuels. It is my understanding that all off highway vehicles are allowed to use these fuels. Areas where OHV hobbies are popular may be another potential lead exposure source that has never been looked at.

To give a little background, I found this anomoly through a new group of friends. They are avid "sand sporters" and throughout the fall, winter and spring spent many weekends on the sand dunes of California. After hearing that many of the people that attend these weekend journeys purchase leaded fuel for their sandrail/motorcycle/or other vehicles I began thinking.

On a busy weekend there may be tens of thousands of people at a place like Glamis, CA. If even half of those are burning leaded fuel imagine the potential impact there might be. A perfectly legal and accepted use causing an unnoticed impact.

Just food for thought...

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