Environmental Protection: A Half Century of Progress

America faced significant environmental challenges in the 1960s. Pollution was rampant and not effectively controlled.  Illnesses and even death were caused by discharges to water and emissions to air. Birds and wildlife were in decline, and natural resources could not be productively used. We have made significant progress in controlling pollution and cleaning up contamination, but much remains to be done to sustain that progress, tackle problems which have never been effectively addressed, and avoid or manage newly emerging problems. Many people are not aware of this history and challenges - some because they were born long after the nation’s concerted environmental program commenced, and the most serious serious problems had been abated. 

The EPA Alumni Association has prepared a series of reports, Protecting the Environment: A Half Century of Progress. The goal of these reports is to inform high school and college students and others about the major environmental problems and issues encountered in the United States in the latter half of the 20th century, how they were addressed, and the importance of continued effort to overcome remaining and emerging issues. 

Half Century of Progress consists of an overview together with more detailed reports: Clean Water, Clean Air, Pesticides, Toxic Substances, Waste Management, Contaminated Site Cleanup, and Drinking Water.  We hope that these reports will bring about a greater appreciation of the need for effective environmental programs and inspire students and others to consider careers in the environmental field. 

We have developed a Teachers’ Guide and additional resource materials to accompany Half Century and we welcome comments and suggestions on ways to improve and increase the utility of these materials.

Click the image to the right to read the Half Century Overview.  Click any image below to read the detailed reports on specific environmental programs and resources

Air Pollution

Drinking Water

Water Pollution

Toxic Substances


Hazardous Site Cleanup

Waste Management

Study Guide

The study guide is a companion to our Half Century of Progress (HCP) reports. It is intended to facilitate and enrich the use of these materials in high school and college environmental science curricula. It supports independent study with section review and data interpretation questions that are linked to major topics in the HCP integrated summary essay.overview report.  These questions were extracted from the HCP Teacher’s Resource, which is available to all active environmental educators upon request (HERE). 

Developing Regulations