The Environmental Protection Agency is setting a new health standard for lead. It will slash the amount of the toxic metal allowed in the nation's air by 90 percent.

EPA officials, who were under a federal court order to set a new standard by midnight Wednesday, said the new limit would better protect health, especially children.

The new limit — 0.15 micrograms per cubic meter — is the first update to the lead standard since 1978, when it helped phase out leaded gasoline.

The new standard announced on Thursday would require the 16,000 remaining sources of lead, including smelters, metal mines, and waste incinerators, to reduce their emissions.