Does the cleanup of chemical pollution improve human health? Evidence from the Superfund Program

EPA Grant Number: F5C10394
Title: Does the cleanup of chemical pollution improve human health? Evidence from the Superfund Program
Investigators: Gallagher, Justin
Institution: University of California - Berkeley
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Project Period: September 5, 2005 through August 8, 2008
Project Amount: $108,206
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2005) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships


The purpose of this research is to examine whether the cleanup of chemical pollution under the EPAs Superfund program has led to a measurable improvement in human health. The Superfund program was created to cleanup land and water sites in the United States that pose a significant threat to human health and/or the environment. Critics of the program cite high costs, a slow cleanup process, and uncertain benefits. The costs and time to cleanup each site are well documented. However, after nearly 25 years little is known about the actual health benefits of cleaning up these sites.


One difficulty in examining a possible causal effect between a chemical cleanup and human health is estimating what would have happened if the chemical pollution was not removed and if individuals continued to be exposed. Superfund legislation actually allows for a reasonable counterfactual. The EPA was not able to addressunder the Superfund programall sites identified as posing a threat to human health. Many sites narrowly missed being qualified for federal remediation. Most of these sites had no cleanup, delayed cleanups, or significantly less comprehensive a cleanup than what is typical under the Superfund program for similar sites. I intend to examine measurable health outcomes from individuals living in close proximity to those sites that were cleaned up under the Superfund program to the health outcomes of individuals surrounding similar sites that narrowly missed qualifying for a federal cleanup.

Supplemental Keywords:

fellowship, chemicals, chemical pollution, Superfund, hazardous waste, human health, health outcomes, environmental pollution,, Health, Scientific Discipline, ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT, Health Risk Assessment, Risk Assessments, Environmental Monitoring, Risk Assessment, cumulative exposure, chemical exposure, environmental risks, disease potential, hazardous waste, effect of cleanup on human health, human exposure, remediation, superfund site, exposure assessment, human health risk

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2006
  • 2007
  • Final