uct's life cycle, including manufacturing, distribution, use, and disposal. Further, the problems are not associated solely with the pollutants released directly, but are often the result of complex reactions and interactions occurring in the environment, such as those associated with the formation of ozone in the troposphere or the formation and bioaccumulation of methyl mercury. Such problems can only be addressed through an understanding of the complex interrelationships among environmental media (air, water, land, and biota), human health and ecology, and economic sectors.
Along with the growing need for scientific knowledge and technical information to understand these complex factors are the rapidly occurring scientific advances in fields as diverse as molecular biology, chemistry, medicine, information technology, and the social sciences. These advances and the knowledge and technology they create hold the key to our future ability to identify and understand the environmental problems that pose the greatest risks to human health, environmental quality, natural resources, the economy, and our quality of life. Such advances in scientific knowledge and technological capability are also critical in the development of strategies for reducing environmental risks. In addition, advances in the social and behavioral sciences, including qualitative-analysis, risk-communication, and stakeholder-engagement techniques, are increasingly recognized as critical components of risk-reduction strategies.
Scientific knowledge and technical information are also needed to set environmental priorities. In the absence of sound scientific information, high-risk problems might not be adequately addressed, while high-profile but lower-risk problems might be targeted wastefully. When scientific knowledge is unavailable or overlooked, regulations and policies may fail to address serious environmental problems or unnecessarily seek to overprotect every person or every ecosystem against hazards that are minor or that few will actually experience. This can carry serious implications for public health and the environment or impose a heavy burden on society and the economy without providing appreciably better protection for most people or ecosystems.
Scientific knowledge is also needed to help identify and prepare for emerging and future environmental problems, including problems not envisioned or addressed by current statutes and government programs. If scientists can identify emerging or future environmental