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About the National Exposure Research Laboratory (NERL)

NERL Organization

Who Are We?

The National Exposure Research Laboratory (NERL) is one of three national laboratories that conduct research for EPA's Office of Research and Development. NERL headquarters and two of its research Divisions are located in Research Triangle Park, NC. Other research Divisions are located in Athens, GA, Cincinnati, OH, and Las Vegas, NV. (Division links are found at the bottom of each page and the Exposure Research homepage.) NERL conducts research and development that leads to improved methods, measurements and models to assess and predict exposures of humans and ecosystems to harmful pollutants and other conditions in air, water, soil, and food.

A NERL scientist conducts a field study.

What is Environmental Exposure?

Exposure is the contact of people (or other organisms) with an environmental stressor for a specific duration of time. Stressors can include chemical pollutants, microbes or pathogens, or physical agents, like radiation or even processes such as alteration of wildlife habitat.

Assessing environmental exposure involves a number of elements:

Why is Environmental Exposure Important?

In carrying out its mission to protect the environment and safeguard human health, EPA must understand the risks posed by pollutants and other stressors. Exposure assessment is one critical input used by EPA and others to assess those risks. Chemicals that are quite toxic may pose little actual risk if exposures are low; conversely, relatively nontoxic stressors may pose substantial risks if people or wildlife are highly exposed. As a result, understanding exposure is essential in assessing the risks that may arise from current or new technologies, policies and regulations, and even increased growth in populations, changes in energy use, and fluctuations in the economy. NERL research improves risk assessment through characterizing pollution sources; developing environmental fate and transport computer models that can be used to quantify how risk management options are likely to affect exposures; developing and enhancing measurement methods for pollutants and exposure indicators; and developing exposure models that reflect individual behaviors and microenvironments. Exposure measurements, methods, and models also are important (1) in determining whether or not a pollutant or stressor represents an unacceptable risk; (2) in selecting the most appropriate approaches to reduce that risk; and (3) in tracking compliance with environmental regulations and achieving environmental goals.

How Does NERL Conduct Research?

The Laboratory has an in-house workforce of more than four hundred scientists, engineers, and other permanent federal employees. In addition, a staff of research meteorologists from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration work to support NERL's mission under an inter-agency agreement.

NERL also provides temporary training opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students and post-doctoral trainees, and sponsors senior citizens through the Senior Environmental Employment Program.

A significant portion of the NERL's research is conducted in collaboration with the other Laboratories and Centers of ORD whose missions are health and ecological effects research, risk assessment, and risk management. This linkage allows ORD to achieve its overall mission of understanding environmental problems and developing tools and technologies to prevent or reduce them. Other NERL projects rely on extensive external collaboration with entities such as other federal agencies, states, industry, utilities, universities, and other non-profit organizations.

Research and Technical Support for Regulatory Programs

NERL scientists provide a wide range of research and regulatory technical support to EPA program and regional offices, and to the States, and foreign governments. In particular, NERL provides substantial support in regulatory monitoring methods, waste site characterization, computer modeling of pollutant transport and fate, remote sensing, monitoring network design, environmental indicators, and design of exposure assessment studies. NERL uses a variety of mechanisms to communicate it's research products to program offices, to the public, and to the international community.

NERL Branch Descriptions - This page contains a listing of the divsions and their branches and a description of their major research areas.

National Exposure Research Laboratory

Director, Dr. Lawrence W. Reiter
Deputy Director, Jewel F. Morris
Acting Associate Director for Health, Linda Sheldon
Associate Director for Ecology, Dr. Rochelle Araujo

109 TW Alexander
Research Triangle Park, NC 27709

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