U.S. government agency that sets and enforces national pollution-control standards. It was established by Pres. Richard Nixon (1970) to supersede a welter of confusing and ineffective state environmental laws. Its early accomplishments include banning the use of DDT (1972), setting deadlines for the removal of lead from gasoline (1973), establishing health standards for drinking water (1974), and monitoring fuel efficiency in automobiles (1975). The EPA's enforcement was in large part responsible for a decline of one-third to one-half in most air-pollution emissions in the U.S. from 1970 to 1990, and during the 1980s the pollution standards index improved by half in major cities; water quality and waste disposal also improved significantly. The EPA also oversees the cleanup of abandoned waste sites through Superfund. Its existence has resulted in heightened awareness and concern for the environment worldwide.
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A further 16 — Austria, Canada, Colombia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Denmark, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, North Korea, Papua New Guinea, Romania, Slovakia, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine — have signed but not yet ratified it.