Hazards & Safety
Environmental Contaminants Encyclopedia
Warning / Disclaimers
Where specific products, books, or laboratories are mentioned, no official U.S. government endorsement is intended or implied.
Digital format users: No software was independently developed for this project. Technical questions related to software should be directed to the manufacturer of whatever software is being used to read the files.
This document was put together by human beings, mostly by compiling or summarizing what other human beings have written. Therefore, it most likely contains some mistakes and/or potential misinterpretations and should be used primarily as a way to search quickly for basic information and information sources. It should not be viewed as an exhaustive, "last-word" source for critical applications (such as those requiring legally defensible information). For critical applications (such as litigation applications), it is best to use this document to find sources, and then to obtain the original documents and/or talk to the authors before depending too heavily on a particular piece of information.
Like a library or many large databases (such as EPA's national STORET water quality database), this document contains information of variable quality from very diverse sources. Mistakes, typos, and controversial interpretations accompany most complex human enterprises. In compiling this document, mistakes were found in peer reviewed journal articles, as well as in databases which employ relatively elaborate quality control mechanisms [649,940]. A few of these were caught and marked with a "[sic]" notation, but undoubtedly others slipped through. The "[sic]" notation was inserted by the editors to indicate information or spelling that seemed wrong or misleading, but which was nevertheless cited verbatim rather than arbitrarily changing what the author wrote.
Most likely additional transcription errors and typos have been added in some of our efforts. Furthermore, with such complex subject matter, it is not always easy to determine what is correct and what is incorrect, especially with the "experts" often disagreeing. It is not uncommon in scientific research for two different researchers to come up with different results (or even similar results for that matter) which lead them to different conclusions. In compiling the Encyclopedia, the editors did not try to resolve such conflicts, but rather simply reported it all.
It should be kept in mind that data comparability is a major problem in environmental toxicology. Laboratory and field methods are constantly changing and there are many different "standard methods" published by EPA, other federal agencies, state agencies, and various private groups. What some laboratory and field investigators actually do for "standard operating practice" is often a unique combination of various standard protocols and impromptu "improvements." In fact, the interagency task force on water methods concluded that :
- It is the exception rather than the rule that water-quality monitoring data from different programs or time periods can be compared on a scientifically sound basis, and that...
- No nationally accepted standard definitions exist for water quality parameters. The different organizations may collect data using identical or standard methods, but identify them by different names, or use the same names for data collected by different methods .
In spite of numerous problems and complexities, knowledge is often power in decisions related to chemical contamination. It is therefore often helpful to be aware of a broad universe of conflicting results or conflicting expert opinions rather than having a portion of this information arbitrarily censored by someone else. Frequently one wants to know of the existence of information, even if one later decides not to use it for a particular application. Many would like to see a high percentage of the information available and decide for themselves what to throw out, partly because they don't want to seem uniformed or be caught by surprise by potentially important information. They are in a better position if they can say: "I knew about that data, assessed it based on the following quality assurance criteria, and decided not to use it for this application." This is especially true for users near the end of long decision processes, such as hazardous site cleanups, lengthy ecological risk assessments, or complex natural resource damage assessments. For some categories, the editors found no information and inserted the phrase "no information found." This does not necessarily mean that no information exists; it simply means that during our efforts, the editors found none. For many topics, there is probably information "out there" that is not in the Encyclopedia. The more time that passes without encyclopedia updates (none are planned at the moment), the truer this statement will become. Still, the Encyclopedia is unique in that it contains broad ecotoxicology information from more sources than many other reference documents. However, it is hoped that most of the information in the encyclopedia will be useful for some time to come even without updates, just as one can still find information in the 1972 EPA Blue Book  that does not seem well summarized anywhere else.
The editors of this document have done their best in the limited time available to insure accuracy of quotes as being "what the original author said." However, a proposed more-extensive interagency project with more elaborate peer review and quality control steps was never funded.
The bottom line: The editors hope users find this document useful, but don't expect or depend on perfection herein. Neither the U.S. Government nor the National Park Service claims that this document is free of mistakes.