Clean Air Watch
1090 Vermont Avenue, N.W.
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?
Clean Air Watch