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EPA Research

History of EPA Research

From the start, EPA researchers and partners have provided the data, knowledge, and tools needed to tackle the most pressing environmental and related health challenges the nation has faced. On this page, you'll find links to milestones and other resources grouped by research area.
EPA Celebrates 50 Years of Research for a Healthier Environment
EPA Science at 50: Progress for a Stronger Future
EPA at 50: Progress for a Stronger Future


History of EPA Research: https://www.epa.gov/research/history-epa-research. EPA.gov/50. EPA at 50 logo.

1971-The national standards for six air pollutants are established based on air quality criteria assessments by researchers. Sun partially hidden by smog.

1972-EPA science contributes to the assessment and clean-up of the Great Lakes, which contain 95 percent of North America’s fresh water and supplies drinking water to approximately 25 million people. The Great Lakes shown on a map of the U.S. and Canada.

1972-EPA research supports the Clean Water Act to restore and maintain the nation’s waters by preventing pollution. EPA science continues to support the implementation of the Clean Water Act. Scientist taking a water sample from a forest stream.

1975-EPA research on lime scrubbing sets the stage for successful commercial development of sulfur dioxide scrubbers for coal-fired power plants. The research leads to lower emissions of the air pollutant. Smoke rising from smokestacks.

1978-Residents of Love Canal, NY, discover contamination from buried chemical containers. EPA researchers conduct the most comprehensive monitoring study for a hazardous waste site at the time in response. Aerial image of neighborhood in Love Canal, NY.

1979-EPA releases a research summary outlining the environmental concerns of acid rain in lakes and rivers, caused by sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions. Lake lined with evergreen trees.

1980-EPA science helps implement the Superfund Program created by Congress. The initial program designated $1 billion for cleanup efforts while holding polluters responsible for cleaning up most hazardous waste sites.

1981-EPA research shows that lead exposure in children causes cognitive impairment, contributing to the CDC’s decision to decrease levels of lead in the environment. Woman with toddler pumping gas.

1985-EPA creates the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) program, leading the agency in evaluating chemical risk consistently. A scientist inspects a water sample in a test tube.

1989-EPA leads the Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program, documenting for the first time the status and trends of the nation’s ecological resources. Lake with sunny skies.

1992-EPA conducts a health risk assessment on passive smoke effects, which leads to secondhand smoking being designated a carcinogen. Hand holding a lit cigarette near a child.

1993-EPA researchers begin a decade of research to treat stubborn pathogens in water following the Cryptosporidiosis outbreak in Milwaukee and the 1991 reauthorization of the Clean Water Act. Cryptosporidiosis pathogens as seen under a microscope.

1997-EPA and NIEHS establish a network of Children’s Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research Centers. The centers have produced knowledge vital to demonstrating and halting the health effects of low-level lead exposure to children.

1998-EPA releases the Community Multiscale Air Quality Modeling System for use by states to implement the National Air Quality Standards. EPA physical scientist Dr. Havala Pye writing with C-MAQ models on computer screens in the background.

2001-The collapse of the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, 2001 covers much of New York City in dust and rubble that includes asbestos. EPA and partners develop a method to distinguish this dust from dust from other sources.

2001-EPA researchers consult on cleanup efforts in response to an anthrax attack that contaminated a postal facility. EPA continues to develop decontamination methods in response to bioterrorism attacks. Envelope containing anthrax spores sent to Congress

2003-EPA drafts the first Report on the Environment, which shows how the condition of the environment and human health changes over time. View of a tree and its leaves from below.

2004-EPA creates a manual of selected methods for use by all laboratories during an HLS event to ensure data is comparable. EPA continues to add to, verify and refine the methods in this manual and to add companion information on sample collection.

2005-EPA researchers deploy a new tool for Hurricane Katrina response—the Incident Waste Assessment and Tonnage Estimator (I-WASTE). The tool organizes large amounts of information that helps emergency managers make waste disposal decisions.

2007-EPA launches an initiative to develop technologies to support the country’s aging and failing drinking water and wastewater systems. Water spraying from broken water main.

2007-EPA releases EPANET Multi-Species Extension software to protect water systems. River with sediment flowing through vegetation.

2012-EPA launches research to advance air sensor technology for communities and citizen scientists to learn about local air quality. Row of air sensors.

2013-EPA releases ToxCast data on more than 1,800 chemicals, making the data publicly available through a user-friendly online tool called the Interactive Chemical Safety for Sustainability Dashboard (iCSS Dashboard).

2013-EPA and federal, state, and local partners have held several large-scale demonstrations of decontamination approaches for biological and radiological contamination in a variety of indoor and outdoor environments.

2014-EPA releases EnviroAtlas, a tool that can be used to explore and visualize the connections between natural ecosystems and healthy, sustainable communities. Bridge over wide, muddy river.

2015-EPA teams up with federal partners to help protect the public from harmful algal blooms in fresh water. Scientists develop the CyAN app to help water quality managers make decisions related to cyanobacterial blooms.

2015-EPA releases a plan to incorporate high-throughput and computational tools into the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program (EDSP). EPA scientist Christy Muhlen uses a syringe to insert a liquid sample into a test tube.

2016-EPA partners with the Idaho National Laboratory to build the Water Security Test Bed. The test bed replicates a section of a typical municipal drinking water piping system, allowing scientists to evaluate decontamination technologies.

2016-EPA launches the CompTox Chemicals Dashboard, a freely accessible online database of more than 875,000 chemicals. Scientists use the dashboard to help identify chemicals that require further testing, reducing the use of animal testing.

2017-EPA launches the Smoke Sense app, part of a citizen science project to increase awareness of the health effects of wildfire smoke. The study is the first of its kind known to use a mobile application to evaluate the health effects of wildland fires.

2017-EPA validates a method to guide cleanup of soils contaminated with lead and arsenic. The “virtual stomach” method mimics how the human body absorbs the contaminants and saves millions of dollars in cleanup costs.

2018-EPA updates a method for treating PFAS in drinking water, originally published in 2009, to include four newly identified PFAS compounds. A mother with two young children helping one drink water from a glass.

2018-EPA releases a strategic plan to promote New Approach Methods within the toxicology screening program, part of the agency’s long-term goal to reduce animal testing. EPA scientist, Dr. Jody Shoemaker, conducting research at EPA research center.

2018-EPA partners with HUD and HHS to develop the Federal Lead Action Plan, a blueprint for reducing lead exposure. Under this plan, EPA researchers are working to understand the drivers of blood lead levels and inform regulatory decisions.

2019-EPA scientists begin leading the Accelerating the Pace of Chemical Risk Assessment (APCRA) consortium, an international effort to study new risk assessment methods. An array of pipettes inserting liquid samples into a tray for testing.

Learn More: History of EPA Research: https://www.epa.gov/research/history-epa-research EPA Science at 50: https://www.epa.gov/sciencematters/epa-science-50-progress-stronger-future Science Inventory: https://cfpub.epa.gov/si/.

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