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Water: Water Quality Standards Academy

Basic Course: Supplemental Topics - Health Summary

Human Health Ambient Water Quality Criteria

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  • Human health criteria are estimates of concentrations of pollutants in ambient water that are not likely to pose a significant risk to the exposed human population. Ambient refers to open waters such as rivers, lakes, and streams, as opposed to closed water supply systems that distribute treated water or wastewater.
  • EPA’s national recommended water quality criteria provide guidance to States and Tribes in adopting water quality standards in support of the Clean Water Act. EPA’s updated methodology for deriving human health water quality criteria incorporates significant scientific advances made in recent decades, particularly in the areas of cancer and noncancer risk assessments, exposure assessments, and methodologies to estimate bioaccumulation in fish.
  • Which of three equations is used to calculate human health AWQC will differ depending on the chemical contaminant and the type of adverse health effect associated with that chemical (i.e., the contaminant’s toxicology).
  • Along with toxicology, the human health AWQC equations also address exposure to the chemical contaminant, including the factor that accounts for exposure through consumption of fish or shellfish in which the concentration of the chemical contaminant has increased as a result of bioaccumulation.

For informational purposes only–Not official statements of EPA policy.

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