The EPA said in a preliminary paper published last week it will "evaluate the status of (lead) as a criteria pollutant ... and assess whether revocation of the standard is an appropriate option for the (EPA) administrator to consider."
The paper does not reflect a regulatory proposal, said EPA spokesperson John Millett, but is designed to make the key issues surrounding lead air-quality clear.
"Undoubtedly, the EPA is still going to work to reduce people's exposure to lead," he said.
Lead has been found to cause health problems in adults, and children are even more vulnerable to the pollutant, showing impaired intelligence and behavioral problems with elevated lead levels.
The Clean Air Act was passed in 1963 to reduce lead levels, and a 1970 amendment limits the use of lead in gasoline. Many consider the passing of the act one of the most positive steps toward clean air goals, but heavy lobbying by battery makers and lead smelters and refiners has targeted the limits for years.
Incoming House Committee on Government Reform Chairman Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., said in a letter to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson that the agency should "renounce this dangerous proposal immediately," because of lead's highly toxic effects. Waxman added that abandoning the lead air pollution standard would "send the wrong message."