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#16 - EPA Staff Ranks Environmental Problems According To Danger, Finds Agency Missing The Boat, 15-Mar-1987

A 75-member senior task force within the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) has released a report assessing the risks of 31 kinds of
environmental problems, then ranking the EPA's own efforts to solve
those problems. The 100page report reveals that much of the EPA's
efforts are focused on low-risk problems, while many high-risk problems
are receiving scant attention.

In releasing the report, EPA administrator Lee Thomas said the study
represents "the first few sketchy lines of what might become the future
picture of environmental protection in America."

The study revealed serious shortcomings in the data that the agency has
available to it; the study team "ultimately had to fill substantial
gaps in available data by using their collective judgement," says the

The study team ranked 31 categories of problems by four categories of
risk; the four risk catagories were: cancer risk, non-cancer health
effects, ecological effects, and welfare effects (e.g., visibility
impairment and damage to materials).

Problems ranking high in three out of four categories, or medium in all
four categories, include: criteria air pollutants; stratospheric ozone
depletion; pesticide residues in food; and pesticide runoff into
surface water and air contamination by pesticides.

Problems that ranked high in cancer and non-cancer health effects, but
low in ecological damage and welfare risks include: hazardous air
pollutants; indoor radon gas; indoor air pollution other than radon;
pesticide application; exposure to consumer products (e.g., hair dyes
and sprays); and worker exposure to chemicals.

Problems that rank high in ecological damage but low in cancer and non-
cancer health effects include: global warming; point and nonpoint
source pollution of surface water; physical alternation of aquatic
habitats (e.g., estuaries and wetlands); and mine wastes.

Risks related to groundwater consistently ranked low in all categories.

Problems ranked relatively high in risk but receiving little EPA
attention include: indoor radon; indoor air pollution besides radon;
global warming; stratospheric ozone depletion; nonpoint source
pollution of surface water; discharges to estuaries, coastal waters and
oceans; pesticides; accidental releases of toxics; consumer products;
and worker exposures to toxic chemicals.

Relatively low-risk problems receiving major attention from the agency
include: treatment storage and disposal facilities; abandoned hazardous
waste sites; leaking underground storage tanks; and municipal
nonhazardous waste sites, according to the report.

The report says it is "not necessarily inappropriate" that the agency
is focused on many low-risk problems; in some cases, it may be the
agency's attention that keeps those problems low risk. The report also
points out that the agency's programs reflect public sentiment more
closely than they reflect risks as measured in the report. The EPA
notes that opinion polls show the public has "high concern" about
chemical waste disposal; water pollution; chemical plant accidents, and
chemical plant air pollution; and "medium concern" about oil spills;
worker exposure; pesticides; and contaminated drinking water; and "low
concern" about indoor air pollution; consumer products; and global

The report, entitled "Unfinished Business: A Comparative Assessment of
Environmental Problems," is probably not being distributed any longer
by the EPA, but it's worth calling them: (202) 382-4012; if they won't
send you a copy, Environmental Research Foundation will make copies
available at cost ($22.00). Send a check to us at P.O. Box 5036,
Annapolis, MD 21403-7036. Sorry, we cannot invoice you and we aren't
set up for plastic.

--Peter Montague



A high-priced new report by a private firm deals with three major waste
categories: aqueous toxic metal solutions; cyanide-bearing wastes; and
solvents, oils, and other organic chemicals. Within each category, the
report evaluates the potential for resource recovery and waste
reduction within different types of industries that generate the wastes.

The 193-page report is available for $1600 from Joan D'Alto, Frost &
Sullivan, 106 Fulton Street, New York, NY 10038; phone (212) 233-1080.

--Peter Montague



New Jersey has the toughest and most comprehensive hazardous waste
management programs and policies in the United States, according to a
new report entitled, "The State of the States 1987." The report
profiles the major environmental problems facing each state, describes
the severity of each state's situation, and ranks the state programs
designed to solve the problems.

According to the report, 21 states have passed laws to control
underground storage tanks and 13 states have regulations in place for
that purpose; 10 states have regulations restricting the pumping of
wastes underground (deep well injection); 17 states have state, county
or local programs for collection of household toxics; 13 states have
restrictions on small-quantity generators stricter than those embodied
in federal law; 21 states have passed community right-to-know laws; 37
states have programs to monitor hazardous waste sites for evidence of
groundwater contamination.

Send $10 to: Fund for Renewable Energy and the Environment, Suite 638,
1001 Connecticut Ave., N.W., Washington, DC 20036; phone (202) 466-

--Peter Montague


Descriptor terms: nj; studies; legislation; regulations; hazardous
waste; epa; studies; risk assessment; health effects; public health;
pollution; hazardous waste; air pollution; ozone; food safety;
pesticides; radon; consumer protection; consumer products; occupational
safety and health; hair dyes; hair sprays; wetlands; mining; estuaries;
indoor air pollution; sensible public policies; groundwater; drinking
water; overviews; waste reduction;