Here's a not-so-fun fact to pull out at a cocktail party: There are currently , which could potentially threaten the lives of the people that live near them with illness, miscarriages, birth defects, cancer, and more. These particular locales are called Superfund sites — a government nickname for places with toxic waste that EPA recommends for immediate cleanup. But, unfortunately, many people don't even know where these contaminated grounds are located.
To answer this need, Brooke Singer, a media artist, felt compelled to create , a searchable database that catalogs where these toxic spots are in the country in real time, using data provided by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The project started when Singer met Robert Martin in 2006, an environmentalist and former national ombudsman of the EPA. He told her that after 9/11, Lower Manhattan was blanketed in a record amount of toxic substances, which he believed categorized it as a Superfund site . However, if it was given this status, it would have required cleanup and relocation for all inhabitants — which, clearly, didn't happen. But this conversation stuck with Singer and initiated her quest to make EPA information available to all people who live near dangerous waste.
Enter: that allows people to search for sites based on their zip code. But what happens next? The website provides a timeline of contamination and cleanup (so if you live near waste, you'll know when it'll be cleared up) as well as a scale of how harmful different contaminants are to your health along and possible side effects. This information is given to help people whose homes are near sites make informed decisions about their next steps.
The website also serves as a social media outlet for affected persons, featuring video, audio, and photo essays, which Singer told is a critical part of informing people: "A picture is worth a thousand words is a cliche, but still true."
Check out for information on your area, and visit the for more information on Superfund sites and how they might affect you.