Emerging Contaminants: A New Frontier for the U.S. Department of Defense

Imagine if the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) and, by extension its supporting industries, could identify strategic risk management investments that both lessen the potential for adverse health effects and improve the DOD’s capabilities to achieve its mission.That’s the basic idea behind a new program initiated in 2006 by the Office of the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Installations & Environment. The Emerging Contaminants Directorate1 aims to help DOD more proactively address emerging contaminants. Emerging contaminants are chemicals or materials for which there is evolving science showing more serious risks to health or the environment than previously known, or for which new or more stringent regulation is likely in the future. A contaminant may “emerge” because of the discovery of a new source, a new pathway to humans, or a new detection method or technology.

DOD has determined to better understand and act early to manage risks from emerging contaminants. Not only does this approach strengthen DOD’s ability to respond early to human health and environmental risks, but also it makes good business sense. Strategic risk reduction investments enable DOD to proactively protect people, preserve its operational capabilities, and minimize the likelihood of unanticipated future costs—ideally, avoiding such costs altogether.

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