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EPA’s Report on the Environment 2008

Environmental Protection Agency

This summary is taken from text in the published assessment document referenced below.


To accomplish its mission, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must pay close attention to trends in the condition of the nation’s air, water, and land, and to associated trends in human exposure and health and the condition of ecological systems. Data on environmental trends serve two key purposes: they provide valuable input to EPA in developing its strategic outlook and priorities, and they allow EPA and the public to assess whether the Agency is succeeding in its overall mission to protect human health and the environment. EPA prepared this Report on the Environment (ROE) to accomplish these purposes.

Appalachian streamIn 2001, EPA embarked on a bold initiative to assemble, for the first time, an extensive set of environmental indicators that are important to its mission. EPA presented these indicators in its Draft Report on the Environment Technical Document, released in 2003. Since then, EPA has revised, updated, and refined the ROE in response to scientific developments and to feedback from public stakeholders and EPA’s Science Advisory Board (SAB). EPA’s 2008 Report on the Environment presents the results of this work.

The 2008 ROE compiles, in one place, the most reliable indicators currently available to answer 23 questions that EPA believes are of critical importance to its mission and the nation’s environment. The indicators are supported by data gathered from federal and state agencies and non-governmental organizations. All of the indicators were peer-reviewed to meet exacting standards for accuracy, representativeness, and reliability. This 2008 ROE presents trends wherever adequate data are currently available, and it establishes reliable national baselines where they are not. Equally important, the report identifies key limitations of these indicators and gaps where reliable indicators do not yet exist.

The report is organized around five main chapters: “Air,” “Water,” “Land,” “Human Exposure and Health,” and “Ecological Condition.” These five chapters relate to EPA’s five strategic goals (Clean Air, Clean and Safe Waters, Healthy Land, Healthy Communities and Ecosystems, Stewardship and Compliance) and serve to focus the ROE on issues important to EPA’s mission to protect human health and the environment.

The Report on the Environment represents a commitment by EPA to continually improve the quality and quantity of information available to understand the condition of human health and the environment and how it is changing over time. Within EPA, this commitment provides ongoing opportunities to use the ROE to inform strategic planning and related activities. The ROE also creates opportunities to establish and strengthen partnerships among federal, state, tribal, and non-governmental organizations for monitoring, data sharing, and data needs planning to support indicator development and improvement. As mentioned earlier, the topics of air, water, land, human exposure and health, and ecological condition under which the indicators are presented are all interconnected. Changes in one medium affect other media; human health is affected by environmental condition; and environmental condition is affected by human factors. In reality, humans and ecological systems are exposed to multiple pollutants from multiple sources; large spatial and temporal variations in environmental exposures exist; and numerous non-environmental factors also have influence. EPA recognizes these complexities; to improve future versions of the ROE, EPA will continue to seek ways to better link and integrate indicators across questions and chapters.

Preferred citation

US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 2008. EPA's 2008 Report on the Environment. National Center for Environmental Assessment, Washington, DC; EPA/600/R-07/045F. Available from the National Technical Information Service, Springfield, VA, and online at