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Environmental Hazards and Their Impact on Your Family

Industrial Waste

Chemical industrial waste is considered to be hazardous by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) if it has any of the properties of being corrosive, reactive, toxic or ignitable. These wastes often are by-products of manufacturing or industry processes, and can be in any form. It is likely that hazardous waste not only harms the environment, but may be dangerous to human health as well.

Since 1980, the Superfund Program, as part of the United States EPA, has monitored the release of hazardous industrial waste into the environment and provided for clean up. Companies are mandated to report the release of hazardous substances over a certain quantity. The EPA then assesses the risks from the hazardous waste to environment and to human health. The site will be added to register called the National Priority List, which is continually updated, and actions to clear the site begin.

Since its inception, the Superfund program has reported success in protecting 49 million people from health hazards relative to industrial waste. It has also reported that 288 million gallons of polluted water have been processed and purified for drinking. However, illegal dumping of industrial waste and pollution by companies took place for a long time before clean up efforts and regulation began. Long-term effects from earlier pollution still may not be known. While there is still a long way to go in managing the repercussions of our actions on the environment, the Superfund is a step in the right direction.

The EPA acknowledges that exposure to wastes from industry and manufacturing, such as arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury; chromium and PCB’s in the environment, can have negative effects on human health. Exposure to these agents could potentially result in deficits such as birth defects, liver toxicity, cancer, kidney disease, lung disease, decreased mental ability and nervous system disorders. Despite these known risks and better management of waste processes, concerns remain that some companies continue to deny responsibility for dumping hazardous industrial waste or that the waste they produce could cause illness and disability. Other concerns include that US Government does not have enough strenuous regulations in place to effectively clean up the environment.

For more information: (The Environmental Protection Agency’s website on the clean-up of land fills and environmental waste, with links to information about hazardous materials and their effects) (The Center for Disease Control’s website on the interaction of health and environmental factors, organized by health topic and initiatives being conducted by the Center)