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Introduction

On September 12 and 13, 1995, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) convened an expert panel workshop on the psychological responses to hazardous substances. Participants were asked to discuss an integrated approach to addressing the neurobiological, psychological, and social health effects found in communities near hazardous waste sites or following a chemical spill. An integrated approach to this issue was achieved by inviting experts from many different disciplines, as well as public health personnel and concerned community members, to share their viewpoints and experiences.


The workshop was organized into three panels:

  • Panel One - Biomedical and Psychophysiological Effects

    - discussed the potential public health consequences (both physical and psychological) of a chronic stress response, which has been documented to occur in some residents of communities located near hazardous waste sites or following a chemical spill. The panel outlined ways to approach how to define the health effects caused by chronic stress.

  • Panel Two - Community and Social Science Perspectives

    - discussed psychosocial effects in communities near hazardous waste sites and made suggestions regarding ways of reducing possible stress caused by these factors.

  • Panel Three - Protecting and Promoting Psychosocial Health

    - began developing public health strategies to prevent and mitigate distress related to exposures to hazardous materials in communities near waste sites.


Panel candidates were identified through nomination by their peers or through a literature search for authors of publications on the neurobehavioral and psychophysiological effects of residence near hazardous waste sites. Panelists were selected to ensure representation with respect to relevant scientific disciplines and affiliations, including community members.

During the workshop, the panel members did not attempt to reach a consensus of opinion but to express abroad spectrum of viewpoints. This report summarizes the highlights of those discussions along with salient information from the background literature. This report includes the advice and recommendations of each panel as well as advice and recommendations on overarching issues presented to all three panels. The panels also identified critical data gaps and knowledge needs that must be addressed to develop effective science-based public health strategies.

The opinions and recommendations in this report should be continually reexamined and action plans updated as new data become available.

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