June 24, 2003 — Administrator Christine Todd Whitman on Monday announced the release of the EPA “Draft Report on the Environment” — an unprecedented effort by the Agency to present the first-ever national picture of U.S. environmental quality and human health. Whitman commissioned the report in November 2001.
“This Draft Report on the Environment documents real gains in providing a cleaner, healthier and safer environment, ” said Administrator Whitman. “More importantly, it begins an important national dialogue on how we can improve our ability to assess the nation’s environmental quality and human health, and how we can use that knowledge to make improvements. Using the most sophisticated science ever, we have developed a comprehensive roadmap to ensure that all Americans have cleaner air, purer water and better protected land. This report is an important tool that will be useful for generations to come.”
The report uses available scientific data, gathered from more than 30 other federal agencies, departments, states, tribes and non-governmental organizations, to answer questions that the EPA and its collaborators have identified as indicators of the nation’s environmental quality and human health. It establishes scientific, consensus-based benchmarks to measure EPA’s progress. This is the first time that EPA has developed a comprehensive report about the nation’s environment, and it will be used as a baseline for future evaluations. The report shows that:
* Our air is cleaner. Air pollution has declined 25% over the past 30 years, and it declined while we experienced large increases in the U.S. population, gross domestic product and vehicle miles traveled.
* Our drinking water is purer. In 2002, 94 percent of Americans were served by drinking water systems that meet our health-based standards – an increase of 15 percent in the last decade.
* Our land is better-protected. Releases of toxic chemicals have declined by 48% since 1988, and we have significantly improved the way we manage our wastes.
* The health of the American public is generally good and improving. People are living longer than ever before. Infant mortality has dropped to the lowest level ever recorded in the United States.
The report illustrates, however, that more must be done. For example, despite these substantial improvements, more than 133 million Americans live in areas that at times have unhealthful air. The report also noted the need for additional data to answer questions about the links between some environmental pollutants and health effects. From examples such as these, EPA is identifying areas to improve research and data collection and strengthen data partnerships with other federal agencies, states, tribes, and others.
“The President has asked each federal agency to be more accountable to the American public. In presenting this report, we are providing a picture of what we know – and equally important what we don’t know – about the condition of our nation’s environmental and human health. We have made much progress over the past 30 years, but there is still more to be done. This draft report is a stepping stone toward helping EPA identify future data and research needs, and we are already putting that knowledge to work,” said Whitman.
The report is part of the “Indicators Initiative” which strengthens EPA’s efforts, under the President’s Management Agenda, to identify priority areas of national concern and focus resources. Visit EPA’s Web site: http://www.epa.gov/indicators to learn more about the Environmental Indicators Initiative.