. Focus resources on areas presenting the greatest risk to human health and the environment;
. Work in partnerships with states to carry out national waste management objectives;
. Emphasize pollution prevention, source reduction, waste minimization, and recycling in EPA regulations; and
. Develop new regulations and revise existing ones to incorporate the latest science and technology for the safe disposal and processing of hazardous and solid waste.
In 1993 the EPA focused RCRA initiatives on environmental justice through siting, permitting, public involvement, corrective action, disproportionate impacts, and Native American tribal issues. For example the EPA is expanding public involvement and improving its own ability to include environmental justice in public health considerations and to assure that priority-setting methods adequately address environmental justice concerns.
Hazardous Waste Management. The RCRA encourages hazardous waste generators to minimize waste products through process or equipment changes and recycling. The result has been a 17-percent decline in the amount of RCRA hazardous waste generated in the United States.
Strategy on Combustion and Waste Minimization. In 1993 the EPA developed a strategy that defines the appropriate roles for hazardous waste incineration and applies economically sound source reduction practices to achieve an integrated waste management program. The strategy strengthens technical controls on waste incineration and increases opportunities for public participation in the permitting process. The new controls will be based on the latest, most viable technical advances in risk assessment and management. Using extensive risk assessments at facilities burning hazardous waste, the EPA will issue guidance concerning assessments of direct and indirect exposure at specific sites. Increased EPA presence at commercial hazardous waste combustion facilities will support state inspections and enforcement.
Strategy for Corrective Action through Stabilization. The EPA can require corrective actions to address all releases of hazardous waste or hazardous constituents from any facility required to have a RCRA hazardous waste permit. The agency has begun implementing a strategy to increase the number and pace of cleanups at RCRA treatment, storage, and disposal facilities that require corrective action. This strategy of corrective action stabilization emphasizes controlling the immediate spread of contamination as soon as feasible. Comprehensive facility cleanup is the long-term goal for the program, but corrective action stabilization emphasizes the immediate need to control releases at hazardous waste facilities. It allows the EPA and the states to address the most serious releases at a larger number of facilities in a shorter period of time. In 1993 approximately 1,000 hazardous waste facilities were candidates for stabilization action.
Underground Storage Tanks. Petroleum or hazardous substances that escape from underground tanks can contaminate drinking water supplies. Fumes from these tanks can cause fires and explosions and pose other health hazards. The RCRA amendments require tank owners and operators to register their tanks and comply with leak prevention, corrective action, and financial responsibility regulations. As of August 1993, states and private parties had confirmed 227,000 releases, initiated 174,000 cleanups, and completed 79,000 cleanups of leaking underground storage tanks. The EPA is working with states to streamline corrective action processes and encourage the use of improved technologies to help keep pace with the growing cleanup workload. When a responsible party for a tank cannot be found to oversee corrective action, the EPA authorizes states and territories to use the Leaking Under ground Storage Tank Trust Fund for cleanups. Approximately 86 percent of these funds were disbursed to states in 1993 for cleanup activities.
The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and its amendments established the Superfund program as a response to the release or threatened release of hazardous substances, pollutants, and contaminants stemming from accidents or uncontrolled hazardous waste sites. The act requires parties responsible for contamination to conduct the cleanup. Where EPA enforcement is not successful, the federal government can clean up a site using the CERCLA Trust Fund (Superfund), which is supported by excise taxes on feedstock chemicals and petroleum and by a more broadly based corporate environmental tax. If the Superfund program conducts the cleanup, the government can take court action against responsible parties to recover up to three times the cleanup costs.
Now more than 12 years old, the Superfund program has reduced risks posed to human health and to the health of ecosystems from releases of hazardous substances. As part of the program, the EPA will establish, by the end of FY 1995, community advisory groups to address environmental justice issues in the vicinity of Superfund sites. A summary of Superfund initiatives follows.
Site Evaluations. As of June 30, 1993, the EPA had identified 37,921 potentially hazardous waste sites across the nation. Of these sites, 94 percent have undergone a preliminary assessment to determine the need for further action.
National Priorities List. The EPA maintains the Superfund National Priorities List (NPL), which identifies the nation's most seriously contaminated hazardous waste sites eligible for permanent Superfund cleanup. As of June 30, 1993, a total of 1,320 sites had been listed or proposed for listing; work was underway at 93 percent of the these sites, and cleanup construction was in process or complete at 43 percent. In FY 1992 permanent cleanup construction had been completed at 149 sites since inception of the program. In FY 1993 this figure rose to 217 out of the 650 sites targeted for completion through the year 2000.
Removal Program. The Superfund removal program responds to releases or threats of releases of hazardous substances that present an imminent threat to public health, welfare, or the environment. Removal actions are generally shortterm, relatively low-cost actions intended to respond to near-term threats to human health and the environment. Where additional response actions are appropriate, removal actions serve to protect the public and the environment until a long-term solution can be implemented. In other cases, the removal action sufficiently addresses the problem. Removal activities to stabilize or eliminate the threat posed by a release can include excavating or pumping hazardous substances for treatment or off-site disposal; providing alternative water supplies to nearby residents; treating hazardous wastes on-site; relocating residents temporarily; and installing fences to prevent exposure. Removals can be undertaken at both NPL and non-NPL sites but generally are limited under CERCLA to one year and $2 million. Since inception of the Superfund through 1993, the removal program has conducted 3,400 removal actions, including 2,500 at non-NPL sites.
EPA Technology Innovation Office. Established in March 1990 to promote the development and application of new treatment technologies for remediation of contaminated soils and groundwater, the EPA Technology Innovation Office (TIO) supports projects such as the following:
. Development of a database with information on specific vendors of innovative technology;
. Completion of a joint EPA-Air Force effort summarizing the status of 48 cleanup technologies;
. Assessment of the commercial marketplace for innovative technologies;
. Initiation by the U.S. EPA, California EPA, and Air Force of a Public-Private Partnership Program with Fortune 500 companies to address contamination problems at McClellan Air Force Base in Sacramento, California; and
. Initiation of similar technology evaluation projects at sites operated by the Department of Energy, the Army, and the Navy.
Superfund Innovative Technology Evaluation Program. The SITE program measures the effectiveness of new technologies through field demonstrations. The program provides grant funding for emerging technologies such as physical/chemical/biological processes that can destroy, immobilize, or reduce contaminated hazardous materials. Since its creation the SITE program has completed 49 full-scale field demonstrations of new technologies for commercialization and 23 laboratory and pilot-scale studies.
Superfund and the Role of Disadvantaged Communities
In 1993 the Clinton Administration evaluated Superfund and how it has worked over the last dozen years, taking into account criticisms that the program has generated in the following areas:
. The pace and cost of cleanup;
. The degree to which sites are cleaned;
. The fairness of liability under CERCLA;
. The role of states in the process; and
. The role of local communities, particularly disadvantaged communities, in the Superfund program.
Superfund Administrative Improvements Task Force Report
To explore options for making administrative improvements to Superfund, the EPA established a task force with members from EPA headquarters and regional offices and from the DOJ. On June 23, 1993, the task force issued an Administrative Improvements to Superfund Report containing four goals and nine initiatives that can be achieved without changing the statute. Priority was given to actions that could be implemented before September 30, 1994, the date set for Superfund reauthorization.
Superfund Improvement Goals and Initiatives
In 1993 the EPA began to implement the task force initiatives, incorporating several ongoing initiatives as part of administrative improvements to Superfund.
Goal: Enhance Enforcement Fairness and Reduce Transaction Costs.
Initiative 1: Make Greater Use of Allocation Tools. The Superfund program has been criticized for the high transaction costs incurred by Potentially Responsible Parties (PRPs) in reaching settlements and in litigating, where settlement efforts are unsuccessful. The EPA is offering alternative dispute resolution (ADR) to facilitate PRP efforts to allocate cleanup responsibility. ADR uses a neutral third party to organize negotiations, facilitate settlement deliberations, and provide an opinion to negotiating parties. The EPA may adopt Non-binding Allocations of Responsibility (NBARs) as a preliminary step to allocating response costs among PRPs. The agency also is testing a binding allocation process. The agency assists allocation efforts by gathering follow-up information to share with PRPs.
Initiative 2: Foster More Small Volume Waste Contributor Settlements. Small volume waste contributors often complain that they are not able to settle with the EPA until late in the remedial process or when complete information about all PRPs is available.These settlements can be time consuming and resource intensive for the EPA. PRPs assert that they incur substantial costs in forming a steering committee group and distributing information. Parties responsible for small amounts of waste, referred to as de micromis parties, find themselves subject to contribution actions by major waste contributors. To address these issues, the EPA is taking the following actions:
. Issue a directive to reduce the amount of information necessary to make de minimus findings under Section 122(g) of CERCLA and allow greater flexibility and use of judgement in entering into these settlements; increase the number of sites where the EPA can enter into such settlements and facilitate them early in the process.
. Issue guidance on identifying sites where de micromis parties are subject to contribution actions and on settling with those parties.
. Institute negotiations at sites where PRPs have brought contribution actions against de micromis parties and develop a communications strategy to assist PRPs involved in the de minimus and de micromis process.
Initiative 3: Assure Greater Fairness for Owners at Superfund Sites. Concerns have been raised in the past that the EPA may not have given property owners sufficient notice and opportunity for comment before perfecting liens on their property. Uncertainty regarding the meaning of -all appropriate inquiry- for purposes of the CERCLA innocent-landowner defense may have discouraged the purchase and use of previously developed land and the provision of loans for such purchases. The EPA policy on settlements with prospective purchasers may have been overly narrow in defining the circumstances under which the agency would be willing to grant a covenant not to sue to a prospective purchaser. To address these issues, the EPA is taking the following actions:
. Issue supplemental federal lien procedures providing site owners an opportunity to submit information or meet with the EPA before the agency perfects a lien on their property.
. Clarify the requirements of -all appropriate inquiry- under CERCLA.
. Issue supplemental prospective purchaser guidance as well as a model prospective purchaser agreement.
Initiative 4: Evaluate Mixed Funding Policy. Mixed funding refers to cleanups that are jointly funded by the Superfund and PRPs. Some PRPs have objected to the EPA interpretation of its mixed funding authority as too conservative. PRPs also believe that the documentation requirements associated with mixed funding are overly burdensome. The EPA is taking the following actions:
. Evaluate different mixed funding options, including an analysis of cost implications to the Superfund Trust Fund, exploring options for streamlining the mixed funding decisionmaking and documentation requirements.
. Enter several mixed funding settlements as pilots, evaluating them to assess changes in the EPA mixed funding policy.
Goal: Enhance Cleanup Effectiveness and Consistency.
Initiative 5: Streamline and Expedite the Cleanup Process. Critics claim that the Superfund program takes too long to decide upon remedies at sites and to achieve cleanup. They claim that the site-specific decisionmaking process is a major source of delay and inconsistency. To accelerate the pace of cleanups, the EPA is taking the following actions:
. Promote the use of presumptive or standardized remedies to clarify the land use policy.
. Set out approaches for dealing with lead contamination at sites.
. Provide a strategy to address the problem of Dense Non Aqueous Phase Liquids (DNAPLs) in groundwater, including solvents that are particularly difficult to clean up.
Initiative 6: Develop Soil Screening Levels. Cleanup levels of soil have historically been set through a risk assessment process for each site. The EPA is developing soil screening levels for 90 chemicals to identify contaminant levels below which there is no concern and above which further site-specific evaluation is warranted. Soil screening levels will accelerate investigation of soil contamination at sites, streamline the baseline risk assessment, and increase consistency between the RCRA corrective action program and Superfund soil cleanups.
Goal: Enhance Public Involvement.
Initiative 7: Implement an Environmental Justice Strategy for Superfund Sites. The EPA is taking steps to assess potential areas of inequity at Superfund sites and to identify solutions. The agency is completing a preliminary analysis of populations living near 300 listed Superfund sites. The analysis links minority and site variables and identifies ethnic populations living near multiple sites. The agency is undertaking the following efforts:
. Environmental Justice Demonstration Sites. In each EPA Region, the agency is designating a demonstration site where strategies to address equity and other environmental justice issues will be developed.
. Superfund Environmental Justice Strategy. Lessons learned from demonstration sites along with other data and analysis will form the basis of a new Superfund Environmental Justice Strategy. The EPA will assign site project managers and community relations staff with appropriate language skills and cultural sensitivities. The agency will simplify applications for Technical Assistance Grants (TAGs) and publish them in English and Spanish.
Initiative 8: Pursue Early and More Effective Community Involvement. A critical problem in the Superfund program is the lack of support for the cleanup among communities located around Superfund sites. Citizen groups and communities often are dissatisfied with both the pace and the results of cleanups. Community involvement problems include difficulties in obtaining technical assistance grants and in interpreting health studies, inaccessibility of information and of site decisionmakers, and lack of opportunity for interaction early in the process. To address these problems, the EPA is undertaking the following efforts:
. Superfund Public Participation Plan. In 1993 the EPA prepared a Superfund public participation plan based on comments from citizens at EPA Superfund Public Forums and other meetings. The plan, which includes community involvement, is scheduled for use at Superfund sites.
. Site-Specific Advisory Boards. The EPA is monitoring progress made by other federal agencies establishing Site-Specific Advisory Boards at federal facility cleanup sites.
Goal: Enhance the State Role.
Initiative 9: Expand State Deferrals. The EPA and the states agree that the number of hazardous substance sites requiring cleanup is larger than either level of government can address alone. The EPA will be unable to address environmental threats at some sites for years, leaving PRPs in doubt regarding liability and local communities at risk from unremediated sites and without the productive use of affected land. Several states have developed increasingly sophisticated programs to clean up non-NPL sites, relying in part on EPA technical assistance and funding. The EPA can encourage more environmental cleanups sooner by expanding state authority to address sites of NPL-caliber and by enlisting state participation in a complementary cleanup program. The use of deferrals can encourage states to address NPL-caliber sites, thus accelerating cleanup, minimizing the risk of duplicative state-federal efforts, and assuring PRPs that only one agency will address the site. Deferrals provide a negotiated division of responsibility for pre-NPL sites and determine which agency will address a site. The EPA is planning several state deferral pilot projects in which states will take the lead for low- or medium-priority NPL-caliber sites that the EPA would not be able to address for several years. Sites would have state-identified PRPs. The EPA is developing policy-defining scope and standards for state deferrals along with the federal oversight role. Continuing Management Initiatives Over the past several years, the EPA implemented the following reforms to improve the effectiveness, efficiency, and equity of the Superfund program:
Accelerated Cleanup. The technical complexity of hazardous waste sites coupled with complex Superfund site study and cleanup requirements give rise to concern about the slow pace of Superfund cleanups. These concerns resulted in development of the Superfund Accelerated Cleanup Model (SACM). After completing field demonstrations in 1993, the EPA intends to implement the model, which has the following major components:
. Integrated site assessment;
. A team approach to selecting sites for cleanup action;
. An increased number of early actions, with immediate threats to public health and safety to be eliminated first;
. Long-term remediation; and
. Enforcement actions and community relations activities throughout the process.
Enforcement First. Under this policy, adopted in 1989, the EPA, rather than spending the Superfund, uses enforcement authority to compel responsible parties to clean up hazardous sites. The total value of private party commitments to conduct site study and cleanup at Superfund sites exceeded $7.4 billion in 1993. In addition to testing ways to increase fairness, reduce transaction costs, and accelerate and complete cleanup, the EPA explores ways to encourage PRPs to conduct investigations and cleanups earlier in the process through actions such as the following:
. Unilateral Administrative Orders. Creative use of enforcement tools is essential to complete construction and accelerate cleanup. Settlements with PRPs are preferable, but when necessary the EPA uses unilateral administrative orders (UAOs) and judicial actions, including actions for temporary and preliminary injunctive relief, to compel PRPs to undertake response actions.
. Monitoring of PRP Compliance. Equally important is effective monitoring of PRP compliance with existing Consent Decrees, Unilateral Administrative Orders, and Administrative Orders on Consent. The EPA takes enforcement action in response to failure or refusal to comply.
Effective Contracts Management. Scrutiny of Superfund contracts by parties within and outside the EPA point to the need for good contract management. In 1993 the EPA implemented recommendations of the Agency Task Force on Alternative Remedial Contracting Strategy (ARCS) and implemented the Superfund Long-Term Contracting Strategy to assure reliable cost-effective contracts. The EPA trains personnel to oversee procurement and administration of Superfund contracts and involves senior management as essential for accountability.
Other Improvements. The EPA also is improving the Superfund program through the following initiatives:
. Accelerating cleanups to allow closing military bases to be used for other purposes;
. Promoting the use of innovative cleanup technology; and
. Improving the effectiveness of cost recovery.
Because of their proximity to hazardous waste facilities, minorities and low-income communities are at special risk from chemical emergencies. The EPA sponsors a cooperative program to prepare local communities for accidents involving hazardous materials, to reduce the number of such accidents, and to assist in mitigating effects on public health and the environment should they occur. Participants include state, tribal, and local governments, industry, labor groups, environmental groups, and other stakeholders. A number of laws and initiatives support state and local right-to-know and emergency response planning.
Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act
Included in the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986 (SARA) was the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act.
Community Right to-Know. This section of the law provides local governments and the public with information about chemical hazards in their communities. The EPA establishes national community right-to-know reporting requirements for inventories and releases of hazardous chemicals. Because of these requirements, many facilities have reduced inventories or substituted less hazardous chemicals thereby reducing risks.
Toxics Release Inventory
In May 1993 the EPA issued results of the fifth Toxics Releases Inventory (TRI), which covered the calendar year 1991. Under the TRI facilities are required to report on releases of listed chemicals into the air and water, on the land, and underground at the facility and transfers of chemicals off-site for the purposes of treatment, disposal, energy recovery, or recycling. According to the 1991 data, reported releases and transfers of listed toxic substances have declined for the fourth straight year.
TRI data for 1988 through 1991 are used to allow comparisons across years to help identify changes and trends. Although 1987 was the first year for TRI reporting, 1988 has been chosen by the EPA as the baseline year because of concerns about the quality of industry's submissions in the first year. In addition only those chemicals listed for all reporting years 1988 through 1991 are included in trend analysis; any chemical added or deleted during that time was not included. For example the seven chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and halons added to the list for the reporting year 1991 were not included. Similarly data on transfers for recycling and energy recovery, which were reported for the first time in 1991, were not included in the 1988-1991 trend analysis.
Since 1988 TRI-reported releases have declined nearly 31 percent and transfers have dropped 33.5 percent. Reported air, land, and underground releases declined each year after 1988; water releases first decreased and then increased in each of the last two reporting years due to runoff at several large facilities. Transfers to publicly owned treatment works and to other off-site locations for treatment and disposal also decreased during the 1988-1991 period. The greatest net change occurred between 1989 and 1990 when reported releases decreased nearly 16 percent and reported transfers decreased nearly 10 percent. Some of these decreases, however, may be explained by changes in reporting requirements and options.
Emergency Preparedness, Prevention, and Response. This section of the Community Right-to-Know Act encourages and supports emergency planning for chemical accidents. The act recognizes that the responsibility for understanding and reducing risk and for responding to a chemical emergency resides at the lowest level of government. Supportive mechanisms include State Emergency Response Commissions (SERCs) in each state and 3,400 Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs) nationwide. Each LEPC uses facility-provided hazard information to plan for chemical emergencies, thereby reducing risk.
Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990
The Clean Air Act Amendments (CAAA) involve the EPA in chemical emergency programs, such as the following.
Accidental Release Prevention Program. To prevent accidental chemical releases and to minimize their consequences, Section 112® of the amendments established requirements for risk management programs. The EPA has listed hazardous substances and the threshold quantities for which these requirements apply. Facilities handling listed substances above the threshold quantity must conduct hazard assessment, develop accident prevention and emergency response programs, and prepare risk management plans. In 1993 the EPA approved eight grants to states, local communities, and one Native American tribe to assist in implementing Section 112®.
Hydrogen Fluoride Study. The amendments required a study of the hazards of hydrogen fluoride, which the EPA completed in 1993.
Review of Federal Authorities. The amendments called for the President to conduct a review of the chemical release prevention, mitigation, and response authorities of federal agencies. The EPA undertook this study with the National Response Team.
International Chemical Emergency Preparedness and Prevention
The United States has been successful in having fundamental democratic principles accepted as part of the foundation for international chemical accident programs such as the following:
Organization for Economic and Cooperative Development (OECD). OECD has developed Guiding Principles for Chemical Accident Prevention, Preparedness, and Response, in use by both developed and developing countries.
United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). The UNEP, in addition to adapting the OECD principles for industrializing nations, assists these nations in establishing chemical accident programs under a UNEP program, Awareness and Preparedness for Emergency at the Local Level (APELL).
Joint Contingency Plans. The United States worked with Mexico and Canada to develop Joint Contingency Plans (JCPs) and Joint Response Teams (JRTs) to ensure an effective, efficient, and coordinated response to a transboundary chemical accident.
United Nations Economic Commission on Europe. The UNECE has finalized the Convention on the Transboundary Effects of Industrial Accidents which codifies much of the U.S. principles dealing with chemical accident prevention, preparedness, and response.
The average annual radiation exposure for a person living in the United States is 360 millirem. Naturally occurring radiation accounts for approximately 82 percent of public exposure, most of which comes from indoor radon (for a discussion of radon, see Chapter 1: Air Quality and Climate), followed by radiation from outer space, from the earth's crust, and from the naturally occurring radioactive element potassium in human bodies. Anthropogenic sources of radiation account for the remaining exposure: 3 percent from consumer products such as radon in drinking water and 15 percent from medical procedures such as x rays, mammograms, nuclear medicine, and gastrointestinal series. Additional annual exposure for people living near nuclear power plants is less than 1 millirem.
Radioactive Waste. Radioactive waste in the United States arises from five main sources:
. The commercial nuclear fuel cycle;
. Department of Energy-related activities;
. Institutions such as hospitals, universities, and research foundations;
. Industrial uses of radioisotopes; and
. Mining and milling of uranium ore.
Radioactive waste is broadly categorized as spent nuclear fuel, high-level waste (resulting from the reprocessing of nuclear fuel), transuranic waste (lower-level wastes resulting from fuel reprocessing and from the fabrication of plutonium weapons and plutonium-bearing reactor fuels), uranium mill tailings (earthen residues remaining after the extraction of uranium from ores), and low-level waste (radioactive waste not classified as one of the above).
Over time radionuclides decay to nonradioactive, stable isotopes. As an example the short-lived radionuclides found in spent nuclear fuel rapidly decay during the first few years after the fuel is removed from the reactor. Other radioactive wastes can remain radioactive for hundreds to thousands of years.
Pesticides and Other Food Contaminants
Although chemical contamination of food by pesticides and additives has declined over the last two decades, microbial contamination has increased. In 1993 the EPA, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) worked with the White House Domestic Policy Council to strengthen existing legislative authorities governing pesticides. The Administration supports legislation to increase the overall safety of the food supply that at the same time will make the various components of the food safety program more consistent and more efficient.
Pesticide Residues in Food
Diet is a major source of exposure to pesticides. To minimize exposure of the general public to pesticide residues in food, the federal government regulates pesticide use through such laws as the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA).
The EPA sets tolerance levels to limit levels of pesticide residues in foods. Tolerances-the maximum legal limit of a pesticide residue allowed in or on a raw agricultural commodity and some processed food-are set for all pesticides used on food crops. Tolerance concentrations, based primarily on the results of field trials by pesticide manufacturers, reflect the highest concentrations likely under normal conditions of agricultural use rather than health consideration.
The FDA monitors pesticide residues on domestically produced and imported foods. Two categories of samples are collected for analysis:
. Surveillance Samples. These samples are taken when the FDA has no prior knowledge or evidence that a food shipment contains illegal pesticide residues. Most foods contain some pesticide residues, but few samples violate EPA tolerance limits. For 30 years FDA testing has found 2-4 percent of foods tested for residues in violation of legal tolerances, and no samples have contained pesticides prohibited for use on food. In 1993 of the 5,703 domestic surveillance samples analyzed, 64 percent had no detectable residues, less than 1 percent had over-tolerance residues, and another 1 percent had residues of pesticides for which no EPA tolerance had been set for that particular pesticide-commodity combination. Of 6,463 import surveillance samples, 97 percent showed no violative residues.
. Compliance Samples. These samples are collected and analyzed as follow-up to the finding of an illegal residue or when other evidence indicates that a residue problem may exist. In 1993 a total of 223 domestic and 362 import compliance samples were collected and analyzed. The violation rates were expectedly higher than those for surveillance samples: 17 percent for domestic and 11 percent for import.
Aquaculture Survey. The FDA initiated an aquaculture survey in 1990 that has been continued in succeeding years. The survey focuses on persistent halogenated pesticides in aquaculture products. These chemicals, such as DDT, although no longer registered for food use, are present as a result of past agricultural uses. Of the 308 samples tested, 44 percent had no detectable pesticide residues. DDT was found in 35 percent of the samples at levels ranging from trace to 1.0 parts per million (ppm), but well below the 5 ppm FDA action level; chlordane was found in 3 percent at levels of 0.01 to 0.07, but lower than the 0.3 ppm action level. Residues of pesticides with no set tolerance levels were also found in a small number of samples: chlorpyrifos (trace-0.02 ppm), diazon (trace), and DCPA (an herbicide with the trade name Dacthal at 0.01-0.09 ppm).
Milk Survey. In addition to routine surveillance monitoring, the FDA analyzed 308 milk samples from 58 metropolitan areas for pesticide residues in 1993. Samples from 37 of the metropolitan areas had pesticide residues. Of the 308 samples, 35 percent had detectable residues. The most frequently found residues were the DDT derivative p,p-DDE (69 findings) and dieldrin (49 findings). The highest residue level found was 0.01 ppm p,p-DDE. Results indicate low levels of these environmentally persistent chemicals in foods of animal origin.
Dietary Intakes of Pesticides. A major element of the FDA pesticide residue monitoring program is the Total Diet Study, in which foods are purchased from supermarkets or grocery stores four times a year, once from each of the four geographic regions of the country. Foods prepared table-ready are analyzed for pesticide residues as well as radionuclides, industrial chemicals, toxic elements, and essential minerals. Of the nearly 300 chemicals that can be determined by analytical methods, 99 pesticide and pesticide-related chemicals were found in foods analyzed between September 1991 and July 1993. Table 99, in Part II of this report, contains a summary of the findings of the Total Diet Study. Residues of two pesticides appeared most frequently in the samples:
. Malathion. The most frequently found pesticide residue, Malathion, is used on a variety of crops both pre and postharvest.
. DDT. Residues of DDT have been the next most prevalent residue, although occurrence is declining, which suggests the continuing degradation of this persistent environmental residue.
Pesticides in the Diets of Children
To learn more about infant and child sensitivity to pesticides, Congress commissioned the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to study EPA risk-assessment processes and recommend improvements. On June 27, 1993, the NAS issued Pesticides In the Diets of Infants and Children, with the following major findings and recommendations:
. Infants and children eat types and proportions of foods that differ from those eaten by adults and, per unit of body weight, tend to eat more than adults. As a result their exposure to pesticides may differ substantially from adult exposure.
. Additional data should be collected on the food consumption patterns of infants and children.
. Children may be more or less sensitive than adults to toxic effects depending on the pesticide to which they are exposed.
. Toxicity testing procedures should be developed that specifically evaluate the potential vulnerability of infants and children.
. The process for setting tolerances should be modified so that it is based more on health considerations than on agricultural practices, using improved residue and toxicology information.
. EPA estimates of total exposure to pesticide residues should better reflect the unique characteristics of the diets of infants and children and should account also for the dietary intake of pesticides.
. Analytical methods and reporting procedures for tests of pesticide residues in food should be standardized and results should be collected in a centralized database.
The Delaney Clause. In 1992 the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision striking down the EPA interpretation of the Delaney Clause in the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA). The clause regulates residues in processed foods for pesticides that cause cancer in laboratory animals. In 1993 the EPA listed 32 pesticides, involving 80 chemical-crop combinations. A February 5, 1993, notice in the Federal Register requested comments on legal and policy issues necessary to implement the court decision. The EPA revoked and denied a number of emergency exemptions for pesticide uses and joined the USDA and FDA to issue a joint statement of policy on EPA review and approval of requests for emergency exemption under Section 18 of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). The EPA revoked the food additive regulations for the four chemicals named in the decision and in 1994 will issue a proposal on the remaining pesticides potentially affected by the decision-on whether to revoke food additive regulations and raw food tolerances and possibly to cancel registrations.
In August 1992 the EPA issued the Worker Protection Standard (WPS), a regulation to protect employees on farms and forests and in nurseries and greenhouses from occupational exposure to agricultural pesticides. To implement the rule, the EPA issued notices requiring registrants of pesticides to make label changes incorporating the new protective requirements. Label changes began to appear on pesticide products in 1993 and must be on all pesticides sold after October 23, 1995. In partnership with states and Native American tribes, the EPA took the following actions:
. Developed a manual, poster, and other materials to help agricultural employers comply with the WPS;
. Held a series of workshops to train EPA regional and state personnel in WPS requirements so that they, in turn, can train agricultural employers;
. Developed pesticide safety training materials for agricultural workers and pesticide handlers; and
. Developed a compliance monitoring checklist for state, tribal, and federal inspectors to enforce the WPS.
Microbial Contamination of Food
Microorganisms are naturally present in soils, water, and air. Many are beneficial, playing key roles in natural chemical and biological processes, but others are pathogens to humans. They gain access to human food sources through various routes:
. The Environment. For example exposure to contaminants in the terrestrial or aquatic environment may serve as a route;
. The Food Processing and Distribution System. For example entry routes may include shipping, slaughter, processing, mishandling of food after processing, temperature abuse, and cross-contamination;
. Food Preparation Stages. At retail food operations and in individuals households, mishandling food after cooking or not thoroughly cooking food prior to consumption can be a route.
Foodborne illness is a major cause of morbidity in the United States. Among outbreaks since the early 1970s in which the etiology was determined, bacterial pathogens caused the largest number of outbreaks (66 percent) and cases (87 percent). Chemical agents caused 25 percent of the outbreaks and 4 percent of the cases; parasites, 5 percent of the outbreaks and less than 1 percent of the cases; and viruses, 5 percent of the outbreaks and 9 percent of the cases.
Salmonella and Campylobater accounted for over half of the bacterial disease outbreaks and were the most frequently reported bacterial pathogens for each year since 1973. Fish poisoning because of ciguatoxin and scombrotoxin accounted for 73 percent of the outbreaks caused by chemical agents. T. spiralis and Giardia were the leading causes of parasitic disease outbreaks, and Hepatitis A caused 71 percent of viral food poisoning outbreaks.
The most commonly reported food-preparation practice that contributed to foodborne disease was improper storage or holding temperature, followed by poor personal hygiene of the food handler.
Inadequate cooking and contaminated equipment are also commonly reported causes. Food obtained from an unsafe source was the least commonly reported factor.
Food Safety Reform
Pesticide residues in food and outbreaks of food poisoning are risks that can be unevenly distributed across the population. Federal agencies conduct programs to alleviate these risks for all Americans, but special initiatives target the innercity and rural poor. Food safety reform is a collaborative effort by the EPA, USDA, and FDA in concert with farmers, environmentalists, consumer groups, and state agencies.
One of the first reports to document the correlation of risk, race, and income was the 1971 annual report of the Council on Environmental Quality. This report suggested that low-income racial and ethnic minorities are more likely to live in areas where they are exposed to environmental hazards. This report also recognized and highlighted the interaction between severe urban environmental problems and the social and economic conditions of the Nation.
A report by the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) found that, in EPA Region 4 (Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee), three of the four commercial hazardous waste facilities in the region were in predominately African-American communities and the fourth was in a low-income community.
A follow-up study by the United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice, based on 1980 population data, expanded the GAO study to all EPA regions and found that in communities with two or more commercial waste facilities, the average minority percentage of the population was three times that of communities without such facilities. The report of this 1987 study concluded that race, not income, was the factor more strongly correlated to residence near a hazardous waste site. An update of the study, based on 1990 population data, was scheduled for release in 1994.
In addition minority and low-income communities face a number of other environmental risks. Low-income residents of dilapidated buildings are more suspectible to lead poisoning in their homes. Migrant farmworkers face a disproportionate likelihood of pesticide poisoning, and those who work without adequate protective clothing are even more likely to be exposed to pesticides and toxic hazards. Uranium-contaminated Navajo land and water are believed to contribute to the high incidence of organ cancer-many times the national average-in Navajo teenagers. The level of exposure for minority and low-income communities is increased by poor housing conditions, unsafe water supplies, and inadequate sewage facilities.
Lead Exposure and Environmental Justice
Lead is an ubiquitous, persistent environmental pollutant. It enters the human environment through various pathways:
. Automobile and industrial emissions;
. Paint pigments and solder;
. Old lead water pipes, particularly in older northeastern cities;
. Leaching of lead solder applied to water pipes in homes prior to 1988; and
. Brass faucets that contain some lead.
Lead emitted into the air ultimately settles as soil dust and into waterways, where it can be recycled through the environment and into humans. Opportunities for lead to enter the human food chain are enhanced by animal grazing, home gardening, and general agriculture in areas where lead contaminates soils.
In major urban areas, lead poisoning among children is a persistent public health problem. Lead-based paint is the most common source of high-dose lead exposure for children. Children are exposed to lead from soil when they play outdoors in areas contaminated by deteriorating exterior lead-based paint, emissions from automobiles using leaded gasoline, and/or lead emissions from smelters. Urban atmospheric lead levels may be up to 20,000 times higher than those in rural regions. In addition to environmental sources, the use of folk medicines and pottery containing lead is prevalent among some minority groups and has caused severe cases of childhood lead poisoning. Studies indicate that African American children, followed by Hispanics, have a higher prevalence of elevated blood-lead levels than white children, regardless of age, household income, or degree of urbanization. Screening and abatement activities for homes with lead paint hazards, intensive education efforts, and decreased contributions from sources such as leaded gasoline may account for recently observed decreases in blood-lead levels and new cases of lead poisoning.
Although children are more at risk for lead exposure, lead-induced health effects are known to occur in adults across a wide range of exposures, including among others:
. Workers who process automobile and industrial batteries to reclaim their lead and plastic content;
. Workers who mix lead chromate-based pigments to formulate color concentrates for the plastics industry;
. Workers who solder or weld with lead;
. Workers who repair automobile radiators; and
. People who consume illicitly distilled alcohol, such as moonshine distilled in automobile radiators containing lead-soldered parts.
One outcome of a conference held by the University of Michigan in January 1990 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, was formation of the Michigan Coalition, a group of social scientists, civil rights leaders, and environmentalists interested in environmental justice as a public policy issue. In October 1991 an Environmental Leadership Summit was held in Washington, D.C., where 650 participants adopted Principles of Environmental Justice. These principles include the rights of a community to clean air, clean water, and a safe, healthy, and livable environment.
In response to the concerns of the U.S. Congressional Black Caucus and the Michigan Coalition, the EPA formed the Environmental Equity Workgroup. A cross-section of senior EPA staff reviewed and evaluated the evidence that low-income persons and minorities bear a disproportionate burden of environmental risks. The findings, published in a 2-volume report entitled Environmental Equity: Reducing Risk in All Communities, included the following:
. No clear differences were found between racial groups in terms of disease and death rates; however a general lack of data exists on environmental health effects by race and income. The notable exception is lead poisoning. A significantly higher percentage of African American children, compared to white children, have unacceptably high levels of lead in their blood.
. Minorities and low-income populations experience higher-than-average exposures to selected air pollutants, hazardous waste facilities, contaminated fish, and farm pesticides in the workplace.
. Data are not routinely collected on health risks posed by multiple industrial facilities, cumulative and synergistic effects, or multiple pathways of exposure.
In 1992 in response to recommendations of the workgroup, the EPA created the Office of Environmental Equity to coordinate agency efforts to address environmental justice issues.
Conditions and Trends
Where environmental remedies are not applied equitably across racial and socioeconomic groups, minority and low-income communities face a higher level of environmental risk, including direct exposure to hazardous materials and wastes during their production, disposal, and containment. Federal and state agencies set pollution standards to protect all of the environment and all of its inhabitants, but recent studies, such as those on lead poisoning in children, indicate that minority and low-income communities bear a disproportionate share of the nation's air, water, and waste problems.
In the past neither the extent nor the seriousness of environmental inequities and injustices were well documented or analyzed, but despite incomplete health effects data, federal agencies have begun to gather data on exposure and risle levels to determine whether there are disproportionally high and adverse human health environmental effects.
Despite limited empirical data to document the extent of direct health impacts, support for action on environmental justice issues is mounting. In 1993 the President directed the EPA and DOJ to begin an interagency review of federal, state, and local regulations and enforcement that affect minorities and low-income communities with the goal of formulating an aggressive investigation of the inequities in exposure to environmental hazards. As part of this evaluation, the DOJ and EPA, in conjunction with the departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Labor (DOL), will identify examples of communities in which environmental decisionmaking may have affected minorities and low-income populations adversely.
Federal agencies have assumed leadership of environmental justice initiatives to ensure that the nation provides equal protection under the law. Realizing that environmental inequities can not be solved or even evaluated overnight, federal agencies are coordinating data collection, analysis, and remedial actions with states, municipalities, academia, industry, and the affected communities themselves and are directing compliance and enforcement at the most severe risks, which include those that disproportionately affect minorities and low-income groups.
EPA Office of Environmental Equity
Working through the Office of Environmental Equity (OEE), the EPA took the following actions in 1993:
. Expanded environmental justice education and outreach programs;
. Promoted community-based self-help programs such as economic- environmental development;
. Established a clearinghouse for environmental justice information; and
. Provided financial and technical assistance to groups involved in environmental justice initiatives, such as minority academic institutions, community organizations, and state and local governments.
Databases. The EPA is expanding databases on the demographics of Superfund and solid waste facilities in low-income communities disproportionately exposed to environmental hazards.
Equitable Enforcement and Rulemaking. Investigations are underway to determine if racial or socioeconomic inequities have influenced implementation and enforcement of environmental regulations and if such inequities have affected the speed and thoroughness of cleanups in low-income communities.
EPA Office of Environmental Equity
The EPA Office of Environmental Equity (OEE), established on November 6, 1992, to deal with environmental impacts affecting minorities and low-income communities, serves as the public point of contact for environmental justice outreach, technical assistance, and information. A separate senior executive committee, the Equity Cluster, was formed at the same time to develop policy guidance documents and an agenda for environmental justice. The OEE and the Cluster worked in concert to frame the issues and develop broad directives.
EPA regions have developed environmental justice policies, strategic plans, and action plans. The strategic plans outline regional commitment to ensure equitable environmental protection for all communities; the action plan provides managers and staff with a framework on which to develop environmental justice efforts. Each region and program office initiated environmental justice work groups, quality action teams, advisory boards, or steering committees to oversee environmental justice activities.
Ethnic Study Groups made up of EPA personnel develop discussion topics and position papers on how environmental justice issues affect each ethnic group. Volunteers identified equity issues pertinent to the program in which they worked.
To better communicate with local communities and private-sector groups, OEE efforts include the following:
. An Environmental Justice Hotline is open on 1-800-962-6215;
. The Environmental Equity Update Memo, a status report published several times a year, highlights environmental justice activities and initiatives;
. Equity programs are sponsored on ethnic radio and TV networks, such as Hispanic Network Radio and the Black College Satellite Network;
. Public understanding of environmental justice is refined through interviews on public TV, technical advice to museum exhibits, sponsorship of booths at national conferences, and service as advisors to university drama clubs on creation of environmental justice dramas.
. Meetings were held with senior officials to discuss the concerns and listen to the suggestions of nongovernment environmental justice leaders. The EPA is formalizing input by establishing a Federal Advisory Committee on Environmental Justice.
. The EPA encouraged regions to reach out to community groups, industries, and state and local organizations to bring them together to discuss local environmental problems and solutions. The OEE sponsored pilot symposia as national models and coordinated projects and shared environmental justice information across media offices by forming networks in all program and regional offices. Each EPA region and program office has appointed an environmental justice coordinator.
. The EPA worked on plans for a 3-tiered environmental justice infrastructure to work with the OEE. The structure, set for initiation in January 1994, will establish an Executive Steering Committee, reconstitute the Equity Cluster as an Environmental Justice Policy Working Group, and strengthen Environmental Justice Coordinators.
. The Executive Steering Committee, comprised of Deputy Assistant Administrators and Regional Administrators from at least three regions, will provide agency direction on strategic planning to ensure environmental justice is incorporated into EPA operations and to provide direction to the Policy Group.
. The Policy Working Group will ensure cross-media coordination of environmental justice projects and technologies.
. Environmental Justice Coordinators will continue to provide education and outreach for environmental justice information in their offices and regions.
. The EPA is integrating environmental justice into its offices, as the agency moves toward a multimedia, holistic approach to protecting public health and the environment.
. Multimedia Component. As part of the evolving multimedia enforcement strategy, linking for instance air, water, and soil violations, the EPA and DOJ are developing an environmental justice component to focus on socioeconomic and racial fairness in future enforcement actions. They are targeting areas with a host of multimedia environmental problems for intensified enforcement.
. Embedded Injustices. In addition to analyzing rulemakings currently underway to preclude embedded injustices, the EPA is seeking to increase involvement of affected communities in the rulemaking process.
Multicultural Participation. Historically minority and low-income groups have not been involved in environmental issues, and few programs have been designed to reach out to these populations. As evidence of change, the following recently developed programs are designed to enfranchise low-income populations:
. Chesapeake Bay Program. Through better structuring of informational materials and educational programs, the program is involving minority and low-income communities in restoration of the Chesapeake Bay.
. Radon. The EPA is translating radon public information documents into Spanish and distributing them to Spanish speaking communities. A number of Indian tribes are using EPA grants to implement radon programs on their reservations. In a public survey to measure radon awareness, Native American tribes displayed the broadest knowledge of the issue.
. Environmental Management by Tribes. Native Americans have both a special relationship with the federal government and distinct environmental problems. In this day of multimedia pollution, tribes often lack the trained personnel and financial resources needed to protect their lands, health, and safety. Through a combination of outreach, training, and support, the EPA is working with tribes to educate their own environmental managers.
. Superfund and Federal Facilities. EPA efforts are involving minority and low-income communities located near Superfund and federal facility cleanup sites. In addition to providing educational materials and holding public meetings, the EPA administers local grants to hire outside experts to explain community rights under environmental laws (see Superfund Program section of this chapter).
. Teacher Training. The EPA offers training to teachers from culturally diverse school districts to assure that young people receive information on environmental issues to empower them to make sound environmental choices.
. Intern Programs. In 1993 three EPA-sponsored grants placed 150 culturally diverse summer interns in positions throughout the agency.
DOJ Civil Rights Division
In 1993 the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice used its computerized database to identify and evaluate low-income communities, and together the DOJ and EPA identified ongoing litigation in which environmental justice goals can be implemented. This information is being used to establish enforcement priorities. The DOJ-EPA partnership is developing as a model of cooperation for other federal agencies.
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
Established as a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) has supported research targeted at decreasing health inequities among minorities and low-income populations. The institute supported the research on lead poisoning that established the link between high blood lead concentration and IQ deficits in many innercity African-American communities. Research on migrant populations exposed to pesticides uncovered adverse health effects previously undiagnosed. Research on the health effects of air pollutants continues to yield solutions to the pulmonary problems found in areas of high ambient air pollution.
Equity in Environmental Health Workshop. In August 1992 the NIEHS, the EPA Office of Health Research, and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) cosponsored a 2-day workshop entitled -Equity in Environmental Health: Research Issues and Needs.- Participants examined scientific evidence of environmental justice and health effects resulting from prolonged environmental exposure and identified health research needs and opportunities.
Multidisciplinary Developmental Centers. On March 29, 1993, the NIH Office of Research on Minority Health and the EPA signed a Memorandum of Understanding that provided $25 million over five years to address minority environmental health concerns. One result has been the development of multidisciplinary developmental centers planned in close proximity to areas of minority communities with environmental concerns. In 1993 the first such center was established by Tulane and Xavier universities in New Orleans.
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
Projects sponsored by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) to address minority health impact issues include the following.
First National Conference on Minority Health. A minority health program initiated in 1986 sponsored the first national conference on minority health and the impact of toxic substances on the health of minorities.
Applied Research. An ATSDR-sponsored program of applied research at Historically Black Colleges and Universities is evaluating the impact of toxic substances on the health of minority communities,
Mitigating Adverse Health Effects. The Mississippi Delta Project, conducted by ATSDR in collaboration with EPA, CDC, NIEHS, OSHA, and state and local agencies, seeks to prevent or mitigate adverse health efforts on minority populations living in communities near hazardous waste sites.
Demographical Data. The ATSDR has undertaken a 6-year effort to gather demographic data and information on environmental hazards faced by minorities and low-income community residents living near waste sites.
Demographics of Poverty
The United States is predominantly an urban nation. At the time of the 1990 census, 192.7 million persons or 77.5 percent of the U.S. population lived in inner cities of metropolitan areas and in their surrounding suburbs, an area which comprises only about 2.5 percent of the nation's land area. In contrast, nearly 56 million persons lived in nonmetropolitan or rural territories which comprise over 97.5 percent of the land.
Poverty is as much a fact of life in rural areas as it is in nation's inner cities. Although the rural poverty rate has exceeded the total metropolitan poverty rate over the past two decades, the public perception of poverty as an urban problem may result because most people live in or near urban areas where they observe urban poverty firsthand. The rural poor are more dispersed and less visible.
Innercity poor are much more likely to live in families headed by a woman than the poor in suburbs and rural areas, although poverty among woman-headed families is a growing problem in rural areas.
Urban and Rural Populations
Recent urban population growth continues to outpace rural growth. Metropolitan areas have a considerably higher rate of natural increase-births minus deaths-than do nonmetropolitan or rural areas; however, differential migration is the main reason for the more rapid increase in the metropolitan population.
Central Cities vs. Suburbs. In 1900 most of the urban population lived in central cities. Until 1930 both central city and suburban populations grew rapidly, increasing their national shares, but since then central cities as a group have grown more slowly, maintaining a steady share of the total U.S. population. At the same time, half of metropolitan growth took place in the suburbs. By the early 21st century, if not before, metropolitan suburban areas are likely to account for more than half of the U.S. population.
Farm Residents. Relatively few rural residents now live on farms. In the peak period of farm residence, from 1910 to 1920, some 32 million persons resided on farms, and as late as 1950, the nation had 23 million farm residents. The U.S. Bureau of the Census estimates that the farm population dropped below 10 million in 1970 and is now just under 5 million.
Nonfarm Rural Residents. Offsetting part of the loss of rural farm population over the past 20 years was an increase in nonfarm rural residents. During the rural renaissance of the 1970s, nonmetropolitan population grew by 15 percent, which is above the national average. The decreasing ability of rural areas to retain and attract residents resulted, however, in slower population growth during the 1980s, with a rate similar to the 3-percent increase of the 1960s.
Minorities continue to be disproportionately poor. Although poverty increased most among rural Hispanics in the 1980s, rural African Americans continue to have the highest poverty rate, 39.5 percent in 1990. The number of poor rural whites and their poverty rate also increased during the 1980s. Poverty is concentrated regionally, with the South having 55 percent of the nation's rural poor, 30 percent of the central-city poor, and 41 percent of the suburban poor. Rural poverty is concentrated in counties with high poverty rates and persistently low incomes, such as Appalachia, and in areas with high proportions of African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans. Since 1980 the rural West has had the greatest increase in the poverty rate.
Poverty rates reflect the current growth and distribution of the U.S. population, as shaped by historical trends in births, deaths, immigration, and internal migration. The ongoing decline in mortality is a factor in the aging of the population through an increase in the proportion that are elderly and in the elderly poor. The impact of immigration is apparent in the changing racial and ethnic distribution of the population, with internal migration apparent in the regional distribution of the population and the increasing population density of coastal areas. Although population growth has been moderate and steady during the past several decades, settlement patterns varied for urban and rural sections and for coastal and noncoastal areas.
National Population Trends
The U.S. resident population as of December 31, 1993, was 258.2 million persons, 3.8 percent above the 1990 census count of 248.7 million. The population growth rate for the 1980-1990 decade was the second lowest in census history. Only in the Great Depression decade of the 1930s when the childbearing rate dropped to two births per woman and net immigration from abroad became negligible was the growth rate lower. In contrast the growth rate increased substantially in the 1950s, which included the peak of the post-World War II baby boom with a childbearing rate of three births per woman. Since 1990 the growth rate has increased, mostly as a result of natural increase (births minus deaths) but also because of a net gain in international migration and from U.S. armed forces returning from abroad.
Fastest Growing Age Groups. Over a third of the nation's poor are either children under 18 years or persons over 65, and these two age groups are among the fastest growing in the population. Although persons aged 35 to 44--the babyboomers-were the fastest growing age group in the last decade, the population under five experienced the second largest gain, reflecting an increase in the childbearing population. The third most rapidly increasing age group consisted of persons 75 to 84. Another group that increased rapidly with implications for poverty contained persons 85 and older. A higher proportion of elderly than nonelderly are -near poor,- living just over their respective poverty threshold.
Life Expectancy. For the U.S. population as a whole, life expectancy at birth continues to rise. This increase has managed to keep pace with the growth of the population over the past several decades. Between 1980 and 1990, overall life expectancy at birth increased from 73.7 years to 75.8 years.
Immigration. Each year since 1980, approximately 29 percent of the nation's population growth has resulted from net international migration. Among legal immigrants, including refugees, a major transition occurred in distribution by country of origin. Since 1969 Latin America has been the major source of legal immigration to the United States, with Mexico the primary country of birth. For legal immigrants other than Latin Americans, the country of birth has shifted from Europe to Asia.
Regional Population Trends
The western region of the United States has experienced the most rapid population increases throughout the twentieth century, with growth rates consistently higher than the nation as a whole. This trend has continued into the 1990s. Since World War II, five states have dominated the list of most rapidly growing states: Arizona, Florida, and Nevada led each decade through the 1980s, with Alaska and California missing as lead states only in the 1970s.
The West. Nevada has been the fastest growing state since 1980, with net immigration the dominant force behind the growth. Alaska is the second fastest growing state, with population change tied to trends in the energy industry. Population growth in California, where half of the population in the West resides, dropped considerably in the early 1990s.
The South. With 34 percent of the nation's inhabitants, the South is the most populous and second fastest growing region. The population in the South reached its lowest level in 1930 and 1960 and has increased each decade since. Half of the recent gains result from net immigration drawn by a relatively low cost of living, with inter-regional migration induced by the search for new employment. Generally the rate of growth in the South has slowed over the last ten years.
The Midwest. Since 1900 the Midwest's share of the U.S. population has declined more sharply than other regions. Although it is the second most populous region in the nation, the Midwest has lost population through out migration related to economic slowdowns in industrial and agricultural sectors. Since 1990, however, natural increase and international net migration has led to a moderate population increase in the region.
The Northeast. In 1910 and 1920, the northeastern portion of the nation's population reached its 20th century peak before declining in each subsequent decade. In the 1980s the Northeast grew by a modest degree despite net out migration of half a million persons. Its sluggish growth rate continued into the 1990s, precipitated by a population decline in New England.
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