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Superfund Provides Communities with Significant Human Health, Environmental and Economic Benefits

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Since its inception in 1980, the Superfund program has provided important benefits for people and the environment. The program's benefits, both direct and indirect, include reduction of threats to human health and ecological systems in the vicinity of Superfund sites, improvement of the economic conditions and quality of life in communities affected by hazardous waste sites, prevention of future releases of hazardous substances, and advances in science and technology.

Site photo

A portion of the former Spellman Engineering Site in Orlando, FL, has been turned from a community eyesore into a sports and recreational complex.

Human Health Benefits

Uncontrolled releases of hazardous substances to the environment can increase the risk of adverse health effects to exposed populations, including minority and poor communities and sensitive sub-populations, such as children, pregnant women and the elderly, who can be disproportionately affected. The principal dangers to people exposed to hazardous substances found at Superfund sites include acute effects, such as acute poisoning and injuries from fires or explosions, and long-term effects, such as cancers and birth defects. Superfund cleanup actions prevent or reduce human health risk by cleaning up or isolating the hazardous substances, thereby preventing further migration of hazardous substances through groundwater, soil or other media.

Environmental Benefits

Healthy ecosystems are important to all aspects of our lives. The status of ecosystems can be linked to the central components of human well-being-health, material inputs, security, freedom of choice and good social relationships. Contamination of soil, groundwater, surface water and other media degrade the functioning of ecosystems by affecting the health of various species of plants and animals. The specific effects vary widely among species, contaminants and ecosystems. The overall impact is a change to the composition of species, and the function of the ecosystem. These changes can lead to reductions in the benefits that ecosystems provide humans.

Community Impacts and Property Values

While the Superfund program's primary objective is the protection of human health and the environment, cleaning up and redeveloping contaminated sites has resulted in positive economic and social impacts in many communities. By eliminating or reducing real and perceived health and environmental risks associated with hazardous waste sites, Superfund cleanups help convert vacant and underutilized land into productive resources; reduce blight, uncertainty, and other negative perceptions; and improve the aesthetics and general well-being in the communities surrounding the sites.

Studies Related to Superfund Benefits

The documents below describe some of the benefits of Superfund cleanups:

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