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National Environmental Contaminants Program

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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has been studying the effects of contaminants on fish and wildlife since the agency’s earliest days, but the Environmental Contaminants (EC) Program did not begin to take form until the 1950s, when increasing awareness of pollution problems spurred the American public to demand action.  In 1962, Rachel Carson, a former Service employee, captured national attention with her landmark book, Silent Spring, which described the widespread harmful effects of pesticides on the environment. Carson’s alarming message, that the effects of these substances on wildlife serve as indicators of what may ultimately jeopardize our own health, struck a chord with the American public.

Many believe that Carson’s book inspired the modern environmental movement and prompted the development of many of the pollution prevention laws that are in place today. After her book was published, Congress passed or amended the National Environmental Policy Act and pollution prevention laws such as the Clean Water Act; Clean Air Act; Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act; Safe Drinking Water Act; Toxic Substances Control Act; and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (Superfund).


EC Display

Environmental Contaminants Program Display
(click photo for larger view)


Today, the Service’s EC Program includes specialists stationed at more than 75 locations around the country. These scientists are on the front lines in the fight against pollution. They specialize in detecting toxic chemicals; addressing their effects; preventing harm to fish, wildlife, and their habitats; and removing toxic chemicals and restoring habitat when prevention is not possible. They are experts on oil and chemical spills, pesticides, water quality, hazardous materials, and other aspects of pollution biology.

The Service’s contaminants specialists work in partnership with all of the Service’s Programs as well as other agencies and organizations that rely on our expertise (Fig 1).   The EC Program provides the scientific data that inform decision-makers about pollution and contaminant problems affecting fish and wildlife. These activities are critical to the Service’s mission to protect habitats and improve environmental quality for fish and wildlife. By reducing or eliminating environmental contaminant threats to fish, wildlife and their habitats and restoring injured resources, the EC Program helps the Service to achieve the vision of maintaining healthy fish and wildlife and for the continuing benefit of the American people.


EC sun diagram

EC Program National Strategic Plan Diagram
(click for larger view)


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Last updated: September 9, 2013

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