WASHINGTON--Companies that manufacture, process or use more than 100 pounds of lead annually must report their environmental releases of the metal to state and federal authorities, according to a new rule enacted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Previously, the EPA did not require facilities to report releases of lead and lead compounds into the air, water and land unless they manufactured or processed more than 25,000 pounds annually or used more than 10,000 pounds annually. The new rule lowers both thresholds to 100 pounds per year.

The rule was announced Jan. 8 and is retroactive to Jan. 1. Manufacturers have until July 1, 2002, to report the amount of lead they released into the environment in 2001.

The new rule is part of the EPA's effort to educate the public about toxic chemicals in their communities. Children and adults exposed to lead can suffer damage to the central nervous system and other health problems.

The IPC opposes the new rule. "IPC believes this rule offers no environmental benefit," says Denny McGuirk, IPC president.

The EPA estimates that the rule will cost U.S. manufacturers $80 million to implement in the first year, and $40 million per year in subsequent years. The electronics industry alone is expected to submit more than 3,500 reports at a cost of more than $25,000 per company in 2001 and $12,000 per company in subsequent years.

For more information about the rule, call the EPA at 800-424-9346.