ATSDR’s ToxProfiles enrich the classroom
For communities, physicians, scientists and environmental health professionals, ATSDR’s Toxicological Profiles are an important source of information about toxic chemicals and health effects.
Robin Shapiro has been an academic librarian at Portland Community College in Oregon since 1997. She enjoys helping students learn how to use resources such as ATSDR’s Toxic Substances Portal where the Toxicological Profiles – or ToxProfiles - are offered.
“The Toxic Substances Portal allows students to quickly gain an understanding of the effects of a wide range of substances,” Shapiro says. “It's reliable, which is essential for health information sources.”
ATSDR’s ToxProfiles provide detailed information about possible health effects from exposure to hazardous substances found at National Priorities List sites. Federal agency employees and doctors use the ToxProfiles to make decisions about cleaning up sites, respond to emergencies and treat patients exposed to chemicals. They are the scientific foundation of ATSDR scientists’ assessment work, resulting in action recommendations that are grounded in the most up-to-date science on toxic chemicals.
Shapiro read about the Toxic Substances Portal on Facebook. She says, “I took a look at it immediately, because it sounded like a resource that students at my community college could use, and I showed the site to an environmental health instructor as a resource for his classes. His students were just starting on a research project, and the Tox Portal makes good information easier to find.”
ATSDR began creating ToxProfiles more than 20 years ago when mandated by the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986 (SARA).
ATSDR has developed 173 ToxProfiles covering more than 250 chemical substances. Arsenic, lead, and mercury were among the first profiles to be produced in 1988 and 1989 and have been consistently among the top 10 hazardous substances on the CERCLA Priority List of Hazardous Substances in recent years.
ToxProfiles summarize the toxicological and harmful health effects information for the profiled hazardous substances. Each one includes a public health statement, a useful tool for educating patients about possible exposure to a hazardous substance in a non- technical, question- and- answer format.
The ToxProfiles also include specific health effects of the substance reported by type of organ affected (heart, lungs, skin), by way of exposure (smelling, eating the substance), and by length of exposure (short term, long term).
For each profile, ATSDR develops a brief, plain language fact sheet called ToxFAQs where community members can find an easy- to- ready summary of the public health statement.