Dec. 28 (UPI) -- The Environmental Protection Agency has 90 days to propose tighter standards on the amount of lead allowed in paint to protect children in U.S. homes, a federal court ruled Wednesday.
The San Francisco-based Court of Appeals ruled that the EPA needs to speed up the process to act on a 2009 petition from environmental and health groups to restrict lead paint limitations.
The agency told the court it needed six years to develop a lead paint rule, which the judges did not accept -- instead issuing a "writ of mandamus" to require more immediate action.
"EPA fails to identify a single case where a court has upheld an eight year delay as reasonable, let alone a 14-year delay, if we take into account the six more years EPA asserts it needs to take action," Judge Mary Schroeder wrote in the ruling.
"The children exposed to lead poisoning due to the failure of EPA to act are severely prejudiced by EPA's delay."
The court said the agency has a duty to act on the lead paint issue, noting that there was a higher danger of lead paint before Congress developed standards in the 1990s.
"Under the Toxic Substances Control Act and the Paint Hazard Act, Congress set EPA a task, authorized EPA to engage in rulemaking to accomplish that task, and set up a framework for EPA to amend initial rules and standards in light of new information," the judges said in the ruling.
"The new information is clear in this record: the current standards for dust-lead hazard and lead-based paint hazard are insufficient to accomplish Congress' goal."
The EPA is expected to review the ruling. A proposal must be made within three months and a final ruling will be made within a year.
The EPA has declared lead poisoning to be the leading environmental hazard to children younger than six years old.