EPA's Piecemeal Risk Strategy on Way Out?

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Author: JOCELYN KAISER
Date: May 21, 1999
From: Science(Vol. 284, Issue 5418)
Publisher: American Association for the Advancement of Science
Document Type: Brief article
Length: 723 words

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In diagnosing the ailments afflicting the Florida Everglades, researchers at first painted phosphorus as the archvillain: The nutrient, they concluded, nurtured the cattails that choked the saw grass and sent many species into decline. Among the staunchest advocates of this message were Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) scientists, who since the 1970s had trained a harsh light on phosphorus in U.S. estuaries. But when experts from several dozen agencies began in the last decade to plot a strategy for restoring the Everglades' natural plumbing, they discovered that phosphorus's impact on the ecosystem is dwarfed by the effect of dredging canals and other large-scale physical disruptions of water flow.

The EPA's runnel vision in the Everglades is just one example of how the agency sometimes fails to look at the bigger picture when assessing risk, says Mark Harwell, an ecologist at the University of Miami. But that may soon change. Earlier this month, a blue-ribbon panel released a draft report calling on EPA to broaden its outlook by assessing whole suites of chemicals and other threats to health and ecosystems, not just...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A54796239