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In this module, the following topics are covered: 1) the purpose of government regulations set for the protection of human health and the environment; 2) current environmental laws and regulations for various types of pollutants, and 3) the need for future environmental laws as related to the sustainability of industrial activity and the economy.

Learning objectives

After reading this section, students should be able to

  • understand the purpose of government regulations set for the protection of human health and the environment
  • distinguish the current environmental laws and regulations for various types of pollutants present in different media or phases of the environment
  • discern the need for future environmental laws as related to the sustainability of industrial activity and the economy


In the United States, the laws and regulations pertaining to the protection of the environment have been enacted by the U.S. Congress. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is authorized to enforce the environmental laws and to implement the environmental regulations. The United States environmental laws cover various phases of the environment such as water, air, and hazardous waste, where most of the regulations have been based on the risk assessment of the pollutants. The major environmental laws and regulations are briefly listed in the Table Summary of Major Environmental Laws .

Summary of Major Environmental Laws Table lists major environmental laws enacted from the 1950s onward.
Environmental Issue Description Acronym Year Enacted
Water Federal Water Pollution Control Act
Clean Water Act
Drinking Water Safe Drinking Water Act
SDWA 1974
1986, 1996
Air Clean Air Act
CAA 1955
Hazardous Wastes Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
Hazardous and Solid Wastes Amendment
Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (Superfund)
Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act
Oil Spills Oil Pollution Act OPA 1990
Toxic Substances Toxic Substances Control Act TSCA 1976
Pesticides Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act FIRFA 1972
Pollution Prevention Pollution Prevention Act PPA 1990
Workplace Health and Safety Occupational Safety and Health Act
OSHA 1970


Clean water act

To protect the surface waters of the United States such as lakes, rivers, streams, shorelines and estuaries, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act was established in 1956. The amendment to the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA) of 1972 focused on surface water quality goals, effluent limits based on available technology, and a national discharge permit system. The FWPCA (1972) introduced effluent limits for chemical substances in surface waters in conjunction with a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) allowing for enforceable control over permits obtained by industry for discharge of effluents containing pollutants into natural water systems. The Clean Water Act (CWA) of 1977 placed emphasis on the control of waterborne toxic substances released into natural surface waters. The CWA introduced a Priority List of Pollutants which includes 127 toxic chemical substances including synthetic organic compounds and heavy metals. In accordance with the CWA, the EPA must establish effluent limitations for chemical substances on the List of Priority Pollutants for discharge by industrial facilities and municipal wastewater treatment plants.

Questions & Answers

Is there any normative that regulates the use of silver nanoparticles?
Damian Reply
what king of growth are you checking .?
What fields keep nano created devices from performing or assimulating ? Magnetic fields ? Are do they assimilate ?
Stoney Reply
why we need to study biomolecules, molecular biology in nanotechnology?
Adin Reply
yes I'm doing my masters in nanotechnology, we are being studying all these domains as well..
what school?
biomolecules are e building blocks of every organics and inorganic materials.
anyone know any internet site where one can find nanotechnology papers?
Damian Reply
sciencedirect big data base
Introduction about quantum dots in nanotechnology
Praveena Reply
what does nano mean?
Anassong Reply
nano basically means 10^(-9). nanometer is a unit to measure length.
do you think it's worthwhile in the long term to study the effects and possibilities of nanotechnology on viral treatment?
Damian Reply
absolutely yes
how to know photocatalytic properties of tio2 nanoparticles...what to do now
Akash Reply
it is a goid question and i want to know the answer as well
characteristics of micro business
for teaching engĺish at school how nano technology help us
Do somebody tell me a best nano engineering book for beginners?
s. Reply
there is no specific books for beginners but there is book called principle of nanotechnology
what is fullerene does it is used to make bukky balls
Devang Reply
are you nano engineer ?
fullerene is a bucky ball aka Carbon 60 molecule. It was name by the architect Fuller. He design the geodesic dome. it resembles a soccer ball.
what is the actual application of fullerenes nowadays?
That is a great question Damian. best way to answer that question is to Google it. there are hundreds of applications for buck minister fullerenes, from medical to aerospace. you can also find plenty of research papers that will give you great detail on the potential applications of fullerenes.
what is the Synthesis, properties,and applications of carbon nano chemistry
Abhijith Reply
Mostly, they use nano carbon for electronics and for materials to be strengthened.
is Bucky paper clear?
carbon nanotubes has various application in fuel cells membrane, current research on cancer drug,and in electronics MEMS and NEMS etc
so some one know about replacing silicon atom with phosphorous in semiconductors device?
s. Reply
Yeah, it is a pain to say the least. You basically have to heat the substarte up to around 1000 degrees celcius then pass phosphene gas over top of it, which is explosive and toxic by the way, under very low pressure.
Do you know which machine is used to that process?
how to fabricate graphene ink ?
for screen printed electrodes ?
What is lattice structure?
s. Reply
of graphene you mean?
or in general
in general
Graphene has a hexagonal structure
On having this app for quite a bit time, Haven't realised there's a chat room in it.
what is biological synthesis of nanoparticles
Sanket Reply
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Source:  OpenStax, Sustainability: a comprehensive foundation. OpenStax CNX. Nov 11, 2013 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11325/1.43
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