Inspectors for the District of Columbia's Environmental Health Administration have found high levels of several metals -- including lead -- in the air in Metro subway stations, but none of the levels exceeded air quality standards set by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
The lead levels in some stations, however, exceeded by 1,000 percent the lead level the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says is acceptable in the air outdoors. Standards set by OSHA apply to work places.
D.C. Environmental Health Administrator Bailus Walker, who was a member of the EPA task force that set the national lead standards, said he does not believe the high lead levels in the stations constitute a health hazard because of the generally short time persons spend in the stations.
Children, who comprise the majority of the victims of lead poisoning, generally ingest the lead either by eating lead paint or playing in lead-laden dust rather than breathing the metal.
According to the report, the high lead levels in the stations might be explained by the fact that the subway trains cause constant loosening of particles in the tunnels. In addition, the air intake ducts for the subway stations are at street level, where lead concentration in air and dust generally are highest.
Health inspectors said in the report thet they found insignificant levels of asbestos fibers in the air sampled, despite the fact that asbestos is used in the brake pads on the subway trains.