Estimation of leaded (Pb) gasoline's continuing material and health impacts on 90 US urbanized areas

Environ Int. 2011 Jan;37(1):248-57. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2010.08.006. Epub 2010 Sep 9.


The subject of this paper is lead (Pb) additives in gasoline and their material and health impact from Pb dust inputs into 90 US urbanized areas (UAs). The mass of Pb additives for 90 UAs as a total of the US Pb additives in 1982 were estimated from vehicle travel, vehicle fuel economy (miles/gallon), ratio of leaded to unleaded fuel, and Pb/gallon. About 500 billion (10⁹) miles of travel in 90 UA's during 1982 account for ~18,000 metric tons (MT), or nearly 30% of the US Pb additives in 1982. Applying the 1982 proportions to the 90 UAs for 1950 through 1982 fuel sales by state accounts for ~1.4 million MT Pb of the US national total of 4.6 million MT during the same years. Fates of Pb additives in engine systems were used to calculate Pb aerosol inputs into the 90 UAs. The inputs range from 100's to more than 100,000 MT of Pb depending on a given UA's traffic flow patterns. Soils are the reservoir of urban Pb dust. The median background soil Pb for the US is 16.5mg/kg (range 10.3 to 30.1mg/kg), and less by an order of magnitude or more than soil Pb within larger UAs. Recognizing the US input of massive gasoline Pb additives into UAs assists with comprehending soil Pb differences between large and small UAs, inner and outer areas of UAs, health disparities, and school achievement issues within UAs. The findings underscore the need for controlling accumulated exterior urban Pb dust from gasoline additives along with paint sources that have accumulated in soil to meet the goal of primary childhood Pb exposure prevention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollution / analysis
  • Air Pollution / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cities / statistics & numerical data
  • Gasoline*
  • Health Status*
  • Lead / analysis*
  • United States
  • Vehicle Emissions / analysis*


  • Gasoline
  • Vehicle Emissions
  • Lead