The toxicologic hazard of superfund hazardous-waste sites

Rev Environ Health. 1997 Oct-Dec;12(4):235-51. doi: 10.1515/reveh.1997.12.4.235.


Uncontrolled hazardous-waste sites are a major environmental and public health concern in the United States and elsewhere. The remediation of and public health responses to these sites is mandated by the federal Superfund statute. Approximately 40,000 uncontrolled waste sites have been reported to U.S. federal agencies. About 1,300 of these sites constitute the current National Priorities List (NPL) of sites for remediation. Findings from a national database on NPL sites show approximately 40% present completed exposure pathways, although this figure rose to 80% in 1996. Data from 1992 through 1996 indicate that 46% of sites are a hazard to public health. Thirty substances are found at 6% or more of sites with completed pathways. Eighteen of the substances are known human carcinogens or reasonably anticipated to be carcinogenic. Many of the 30 substances also possess systemic toxicity. The high percentage of sites with completed exposure pathways and the toxicity potential of substances in these pathways show that uncontrolled hazardous-waste sites are a major environmental threat to human health. Findings from the United States' experience in responding to uncontrolled waste sites are relevant to other countries as they address similar environmental and public health concerns.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Databases, Factual
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Hazardous Waste* / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms / etiology
  • Public Health*
  • Risk Assessment
  • United States


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Hazardous Waste