Lead Industries Association v. EPA 647 F.2d 1130 (D.C. Cir. 1980)
The Clean Air Act required EPA to identify
pollutants and then set national ambient air quality standards (NAAQSs) to
limit their release.
EPA issued a ruling that created a NAAQS for lead.
The Lead Industries Association (LIA) objected to the
NAAQS and sued to have it overturned.
LIA argued that EPA had insufficient evidence to justify
setting the NAAQS for lead as low as it had.
LIA argued that Congress had only intended the Clean
Air Act to protect the public against effects that are known to be
clearly harmful to health, and that EPA had established a limit more
stringent then Congress contemplated.
EPA argued that primary air quality standards should be
based on protecting the public from "adverse health effects."
EPA argued that the legislation was of a 'precautionary
nature' and the standard needed to include a margin of error.
The main issue for LIA was that EPA had made some
assumptions in developing their standards and at best their limits were a
'scientific guess' about what the proper level of safety should be.
The Appellate Court found for EPA.
The Appellate Court found that some uncertainty about the
health effects of air pollution is inevitable. However, awaiting
certainty will often allow for only reactive, not preventative regulatory
The Appellate Court found that Congress had directed EPA
to allow an adequate margin of safety, and disagreed with LIAs argument
that EPA is only authorized to set primary air quality standards which
are designed to protect against health effects that are known to be
Basically, the Appellate Court said that EPA can regulate
based on the best scientific data available at the time, they do not have
to wait until that scientific data is 100% conclusive before they make a
This case was also the leading authority on whether or not
to consider things other than public health considerations when setting a
NAAQS, but it has since been overruled by Whitman v. American Trucking
Associations (531 U.S. 457 (2001))