Environment & Airports

Environmental Information

Is Tetraethyllead (TEL) Toxic?

All forms of lead are toxic if inhaled or ingested. Lead can affect human health in several ways, including effects on the nervous system, red blood cells and cardiovascular and immune systems. Infants and young children are especially sensitive to even low levels of lead, which may contribute to behavioral problems, learning difficulties, and lower IQ due to their developing nervous systems.

Airport Mitigation

What can airports do in the short term to reduce lead emissions?

The goal is to eliminate the use of leaded aviation fuels for piston-engine aircraft in the United States by the end of 2030 without adversely impacting the safe and efficient operation of the existing GA fleet. 

In the short-term, there are measures that airport owners and operators can take to reduce or minimize potential exposure to aircraft lead emissions. 

  • Work to offer additional unleaded fuel types to facilitate the transition.
  • Minimize engine idling time and run-up times of piston-engine aircraft.
  • Promote airport and pilot awareness. 
  • Increase distance between pre-flight / maintenance run-up locations and people on/off airport by relocating run-up locations or distributing run-ups to multiple locations.
    • If existing run-up areas typically cause propeller wash to be directed off-airport property or into areas where the public can be exposed, the airport operator should consider shifting either the location or orientation of run-up activities to locations where the emissions can be better contained to non-public areas on the airport.  Additionally airport owners are encouraged to work with piston-engine aircraft operators to inform and promote implementation of these simple but effective measures.  
    • In cases where it is not immediately feasible to reduce lead emissions, consider minimizing the public's outdoor air exposure to lead emissions by either shifting fences (to increase the distance between run-up areas and public observation areas) and/or posting signs to discourage loitering by the public in those areas where there may be potential and unnecessary exposure to lead from piston engine aircraft emissions.

Airport operators are encouraged to evaluate these suggested measures while taking into account the specific operational and safety needs unique to their airport. Any change in operation that relocates a lead emission source must be carefully considered.  

Last updated: Friday, October 07, 2022