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For the foreseeable future, the atmosphere and the environment will remain a dumping ground for various anthropogenic substances. Some substances will have negative properties, and society will sooner or later begin regulating their emissions. To that end, science must provide society with the tools for retrospectively evaluating the physical and economical impacts of past regulations, and for evaluating scenarios in which alternative future regulations are implemented.

A tool for reconstructing lead air concentrations and depositions across Europe from 1958 through 1995 has been developed that incorporates detailed emissions, a regionalized history of weather events, and an atmospheric transport model. This tool was used, in conjunction with lead measurements in both biota and human blood and with economic analysis, to assess past European gasoline-lead regulations. Some of the specific questions asked in this assessment were: How did lead emissions, atmospheric concentrations, and depositions develop since the 1950s? Was the decline in air concentrations matched by corresponding declines in plants, animals, and humans? Did the regulations result in considerable economic burdens in Germany, for example?