Environmental Health

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Environmental Health — Poisoned Waters
More than three decades after the Clean Water Act (initially enacted in 1972, regulating pollution
discharge into rivers, streams, and the quality of these bodies of water), iconic American waterways like the
Chesapeake Bay and Puget Sound are in perilous condition and facing new sources of contamination.
Reversing decades of pollution and preventing the irreversible annihilation of the nation’s
waterways, however, will require a seismic shift in the way Americans live their lives and use natural
resources, experts say. “You have to change the way you live in the ecosystem and the place that you share
with other living things,” says William Ruckelshaus, founding director of the Environmental Protection
Agency. “You’ve got to learn to live in such a way that it doesn’t destroy other living things. It’s got to
become part of our culture.”
WATCH: Poisoned Waters

Poisoned Waters

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/poisonedwaters/etc/script.html (with transcript)
After watching the complete video, answer the following 10 questions. Feel free to work in
groups (up to 4 people per group). Number your answers. Bullets are acceptable. Turn in a
typed copy of your answers to the. It is due 2/6/18 by 12:30pm. Submit one paper per
group. If doing this as a group, you must include everyone?s name.
Environmental Health — Poisoned Waters
1. When was the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) formed? What events prompted its formation?
2. The Clean Water Act of 1972 allows citizens to sue alleged offenders if government agencies do not act.
Why is that provision of the law important?
3. Where does waste from our toilets and sink wind up? What about chemicals that we use to clean our
homes, wash our cars, fertilize our lawns? What happens to our makeup, deodorant, shampoos and other
personal care items when we take a shower? What about pharmaceuticals tossed in the toilet?
4. The expression ?canary in the coal mine? means an early warning of danger. (Coal miners would carry
canaries or small animals with them into mines to detect deadly but odorless and tasteless methane gas.)
To what does the expression ?canary in the coal mine? apply in Poisoned Waters?
5. Twenty million Americans took to the streets for the first Earth Day in 1970 as a result of pollution they
could see and smell: The Cuyahoga River in Cleveland burned, with flames that towered eight stories high;
the1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara closed virtually all the beaches in Southern California; people had declared
Lake Erie dead. How, according to the film, have both pollution and people’s reaction to Earth Day changed
since 1970?
6. What do ?endocrine disruptors? do? Why do genetic mutations in fish disturb scientists (and you and me) so
7. What problems have scientists detected in nature that they believe are caused by ?emerging
contaminants?? Are humans potentially vulnerable to some of these same chemicals?
8. What should the government and/or industry do about these emerging contaminants? What can you do to
make water safer for yourself, your community and the fish?
9. How should we pay for environmental cleanup? Should it be the responsibility of industry? Government?
Individuals? Explain your reasoning.
10. Discuss one other part of the video that interested you. Explain.

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