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How do people get exposed to hazardous substances?

There are a number of ways that people can be exposed to hazardous substances. These include:

  • Breathing contaminated air;

  • Touching hazardous waste;

  • Drinking contaminated water;

  • Being exposed to a toxic fire or explosion;

  • Eating contaminated food;

  • Being exposed to contaminated ground water;

  • Touching or working with contaminated soil; and

  • Touching contaminated surface water (streams, lakes, puddles).


  • If you and your family live near a Superfund site, you are probably concerned about the effect this may have on you. The sources of exposure vary depending on the site. Not all of these exposure threats exist at every site. EPA scientists must investigate a site to determine what types of exposure threats are present. Once they understand what threats exist, they can determine the best way to protect the health of the surrounding community. To learn more about how EPA determines the risks a hazardous waste site poses to human health and the environment, please see Superfund Today: Focus on Risk Assessment.

    If you would like to know more about the chemicals that are often found at Superfund sites and their impact on human health and the environment, see the CERCLA Priority List of Hazardous Substances page on the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) Web site.

    For a general overview of contaminants that are often encountered in the home or community, please see
    <Fact Flash 9: Common Contaminants</a>.
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    Topic Information
    • Topic #: 23002-17022
    • Date Created: 10/1/2003
    • Last Modified Since: 8/20/2011
    • Viewed: 2289

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