A ten-year study by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) showed slightly elevated lead levels in children living near airports, though these levels remained below the Center for Disease Control’s blood lead threshold.

Conducted from 2011 to 2021, the study examined 12 regional and county airports across Colorado including Glenwood Springs Airport, Centennial Airport, and Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport among others. Researchers indicated that the average lead levels from these airport communities likely reflect those near other Colorado airports using leaded fuel. They also found that blood lead levels beyond 2 miles from a regional airport were close to or below the average reported in children across the state.

“While the study confirms that the risk of lead exposure from general aviation airports is extremely small, America’s aviation industry remains committed to transitioning to unleaded fuel as soon as one is developed, approved, and made commercially available,” the Colorado Aviation Business Association (CABA) stated in an article from KDVR.

However, despite the low risk, communities across the state continue to voice concerns over lead exposure near airports. Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport (KBJC) is at the forefront of lawsuits filed by hundreds of nearby residents, in addition to the town of Superior and Boulder County, claiming the airport is threatening the health, safety, and welfare of communities.  

According to data from AirNav, Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport is the third busiest in the state with an average of 772 operations per day.  To address community concerns, the airport has implemented a noise abatement program and announced plans to transition to unleaded fuel within four years.

The CDPHE plans to publish the study in an academic journal in the near future.

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