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National Exposure Research Laboratory

EPA’s National Exposure Research Laboratory (NERL) provides international leadership in exposure science and uses an integrated multidisciplinary approach to conduct relevant and responsive research to:

  • develop the knowledge and tools necessary to assess potential exposures and risks to emerging environmental threats, and
  • mitigate exposures to known contaminants and environmental stressors.

The NERL provides information to promote the understanding of, and approaches for reducing exposures for making informed decisions to protect public health and the environment.

The NERL manages several research projects including:

  • Human Exposure Database System (HEDS)
  • Consolidated Human Activity Database (CHAD)
  • Water Resources Database (WRDB)
  • Regional Vulnerability Assessment Program (ReVA)

The EPA Research Centers have produced a number of tools useful for conservation action and integrating information into the decision making process. These include:

  • The Regional Vulnerability Assessment (ReVA) program conducts research on innovative approaches to the evaluation and integration of large and complex datasets and models to assess current conditions and likely outcomes of environmental decisions, including alternative futures.  ReVA developed a web-based environmental decision toolkit (EDT) for the Mid-Atlantic that allows decision makers to evaluate potential changes to ecosystems in response to various management decisions, under various future development scenarios (e.g., population increase, land-use change, climate change, intensity of resource extraction) out to the year 2020.

  • Causal Analysis/Diagnosis Decision Information System (CADDIS) – CADDIS, is a website developed to help scientists and engineers conduct causal assessments in aquatic systems.

  • Watershed Central – Watershed Central has been designed to assist users to develop and implement effective watershed management programs. The site includes guidance, tools, case studies, and data sets to help you share information, analyze data, and identify opportunities to initiate or strengthen your watershed efforts.

  • National Aquatic Resource Surveys – The U.S. EPA, states, and tribes are conducting a series of national aquatic resource surveys. Often referred to as probability-based surveys, these studies report on core indicators of water condition using standardized field and lab methods. The surveys include a national quality assurance program and are designed to yield unbiased, statistically-representative estimates of the condition of the whole water resource (such as rivers and streams, lakes, ponds, and reservoirs, wetlands, etc).

  • Healthy Watershed Initiative – The objective of the federal Clean Water Act is to "restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation's waters." While other EPA programs focus on restoring impaired waters, the Healthy Watersheds Initiative augments the watershed approach with proactive, holistic aquatic ecosystem conservation and protection. The Healthy Watersheds Initiative includes both assessment and management approaches that encourage states, local governments, watershed organizations, and others to take a strategic, systems approach to conserve healthy components of watersheds, and, therefore, avoid additional water quality impairments in the future.

  • Multi-criteria Integrated Resource Assessment (MIRA) – MIRA is a new approach to help decision makers make more informed environmental decisions that include stakeholder concerns. The process is used to: 1) organize and rank decision criteria or indicators, 2) link the data to the policy decision question, use the decision context to determine the relative importance of the decision criteria, and explore alternative decision options.

  • Natural infrastructure (sometimes called green or sustainable infrastructure) is the interconnected network of natural and undeveloped areas needed to maintain and support ecosystems. They also provide a wide array of environmental, health and economic benefits such as mitigating climate change impacts and sustaining clean air and water.  The EPA Mid-Atlantic Region Natural Infrastructure Priority Action Plan has identified three project areas of focus: 1) Abandoned Mine Land / Pennsylvania Bituminous Coal Region, 2) Monocacy Watershed, Pennsylvania and Maryland, and 3) Coal River, West Virginia.

The Framework for Risk Analysis for Multimedia Environmental Systems (FRAMES) provides the linkage of different state of the art environmental models (water, soils, metals, air, landscape, etc.) so that scientists can consider all the exposure pathways and the collective risk that they pose. Furthermore, the processing of data for model consumption, whether field data or another model’s output, is a time-consuming and sometimes tedious process.  Having this linking capability allows environmental model developers and users to more easily populate model input files, concentrating their resources and efforts on improved science and applications.

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