Air Pollution:

EPA May Not Fully Achieve Toxic Air Deposition Goals

RCED-91-102: Published: May 10, 1991. Publicly Released: Jul 24, 1991.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reported on toxic bioaccumulation and the extent to which air deposition contributes to this problem.

GAO found that: (1) air deposition of toxic pollutants, particularly in water, may significantly contribute to bioaccumulation problems; (2) American industry reported emitting about 2.4 billion pounds of toxic chemicals into the atmosphere in 1988; (3) bioaccumulation of certain chemicals has adverse impacts on birds, fish, and other wildlife; (4) the Great Lakes, coastal estuaries, and other bodies of water are the areas most susceptible to bioaccumulation problems; (5) health effects of bioaccumulation appear to be manifested in the offspring of both human and wildlife populations rather than in adults; (6) toxic substances travel great distances in the atmosphere before being deposited and accumulated in different species; and (7) the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to assess and report on the air deposition problem, but data limitations may make it difficult to develop a comprehensive report in 3 years.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: EPA has taken action to streamline its internal regulatory development process that will reduce the time needed to develop air toxic deposition standards. The agency has developed a plan for obtaining toxic deposition from planned and existing monitors.

    Recommendation: If EPA planning efforts show that EPA cannot fully achieve the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments' requirements within the required time frames, the Administrator, EPA, should inform Congress of any anticipated delays or problems and suggest possible remedies.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency


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