Environmental Measurements Laboratory

Environmental Measurements Laboratory

The Environmental Measurements Laboratory (EML), a United States government-owned, government-operated laboratory, is part of the Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

A descendant of the Manhattan Project, EML was established in 1947. The Laboratory advances and applies the science and technology required for preventing, protecting against, and responding to radiological and nuclear events in the service of homeland and national security.

EML's current programs focus on issues associated with environmental radiation and radioactivity. Specifically, EML provides DHS with environmental radiation and radioactivity measurements in the laboratory or field, technology development and evaluation, personnel training, instrument calibration, performance testing, data management, and data quality assurance.

The EML is located at the Federal Office Building at 201 Varick Street, New York City, New York.


EML traces its roots to the Medical Division of the Manhattan Project during and after World War II. The Division focused on industrial hygiene, radiation protection and safety. In 1946, the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) was created. The lab was renamed the Health and Safety Division of the AEC.

In 1953 it became the Health and Safety Laboratory, or HASL. Fallout from nuclear weapons tests became a major concern and the lab's focus shifted to measurements and assessments of fallout using a network of gummed film monitoring stations and measurements of the radioactivity levels in various food products. In the 1950's and 1960's, the worldwide sampling network was expanded considerably to include soil and water samples, air filter samples at the surface and in the stratosphere, biological samples, and measurements of wet and dry fallout.

HASL acquired a reputation as the world leader in environmental radiation measurements. The HASL Procedures Manual became the standard for environmental radiation measurement techniques. In the 1960's, the lab began taking measurements of radon in mines to assess the health risks of miners. In the 1970's, the lab's worldwide sampling programs were expanded to include non-nuclear pollutants.

When the Atomic Energy Commission was abolished in 1975, the Health and Safety Laboratory became part of the Energy Research and Development Administration. In 1977, the Energy Research and Development Administration was absorbed by the Department of Energy, and the Health and Safety Laboratory changed its name to the Environmental Measurements Laboratory (EML).

In the 1970's, the lab performed extensive radiation transport and dosimetry studies in and around nuclear facilities, and established the Quality Assurance Program for environmental dosimeters and radioanalytical measurements. The lab also did extensive dose reconstructions for nuclear weapons tests, and studied radon in homes. After the Three-Mile Island and Chernobyl accidents, the lab took immediate measurements providing the ability to accurately and comprehensively reconstruct the environmental contamination resulting from these incidents.

In 1997, the lab underwent a major change of focus when it moved from the DOE Office of Energy Research to the Office of Environmental Management. EML's primary focus was to support environmental monitoring, decommissioning, decontamination, and remediation efforts. Cleanup efforts across the DOE complex required a wide range of low-level radiation and radioactivity assessments that were used in contaminant characterization studies, remediation control guidance, final status surveys, and long-term stewardship. EML served as an interface between DOE and contractor staff on technical issues that impact on remediation goals and strategies. This included providing consultation on radiation survey planning, data quality objectives, background levels of radionuclides, radiation dose models, environmental transport, measurement techniques, and data assessment. EML itself also performed environmental measurements when independent expert assessments were needed, as in the case of demonstration surveys, comparability studies, continuous monitoring for ES&H impact, and retrospective dosimetry studies. EML also continued its worldwide monitoring network and the development of instruments in support of non-proliferation activities.

In 2002, President Bush signed legislation to create a new Cabinet Department of Homeland Security. The Environmental Measurements Laboratory became a part of the Department of Homeland Security under the Science and Technology Directorate. It uses expertise in radiation and radioactivity measurements to improve the science and technology available to responders.

A point of trivia is that EML maintains a radiation sensor on the roof of the building on Varick Street.

External links

* [http://www.eml.st.dhs.gov/ Environmental Measurements Laboratory]

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