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EPA at 50: EPA Celebrates 50 Years of Earth Day

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EPA Press Office (

WASHINGTON (April 15, 2020) - As part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) 50th anniversary commemoration, the agency is kicking off its monthly series with a look at the history of Earth Day in America.

In Spring 1970, Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson created Earth Day as a way to bring national attention to the environmental challenges of the time, prompting 22 million Americans to take part in demonstrations urging action for clean air, land, and water.

"For 50 years, Earth Day has brought people together to take action to clean up our beaches, parks, rivers, and communities," said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. "When Earth Day began in 1970, Americans faced a drastically different environment than we do today. I am proud of the work our Nation has done, and continues to do, to be a leader in clean air and clean water progress."

Over the last 50 years all environmental indicators across the nation have improved and continue to improve. For example,

  • In 1970, more than 40 percent of the nation's drinking water systems failed to meet even the most basic health standards.
  • Today, over 92 percent of community water systems now meet all health-based standards, all the time.
  • America continues to be a leader in clean air progress, by reducing the six main criteria air pollutants by 73 percent.
  • Doubling to 86 percent the number of low-income communities achieving attainment with EPA's National Ambient Air Quality Standards since 2008.
  • In the past three years alone, 38 areas have moved from nonattainment to attainment.
  • And EPA's successful superfund and brownfields programs are bringing opportunity back to communities.
  • Last year EPA delisted more superfund sites then any year since 2001.

Since the first Earth Day in 1970, EPA has played a key role in hosting, coordinating, and participating in the annual event. As we continue to observe CDC guidance to stem the spread of COVID-19, and out of an abundance of caution, EPA will offer ways to participate in Earth Day activities and education online through EPA social media channels, including at-home activities for children. To promote public recognition of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, we are also inviting everyone to participate by drawing pictures and making signs recognizing Earth Day to hang in the windows of their homes to celebrate with neighbors and their community. A printable sign is also available here. Those who wish to share pictures of their artwork are welcome to do so on social media using the hashtag #EarthDayAtHome, #EarthDay2020, and #EPAat50.