What is ATSDR doing?

What is ATSDR?

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) is a federal public health agency. Our mission is to protect people from exposure to hazardous chemicals in their community. We investigate potential health risks and make recommendations to protect people’s health. We work with communities, environmental groups, other organizations, and local, state, and federal agencies to protect public health.

Why is ATSDR involved?

In 2017, ATSDR received a petition request from two organizations. The organizations asked ATSDR to investigate whether air emissions from Hickman’s Family Farms’ Arlington and Tonopah egg farms facilities might pose health risks to community members. After receiving the petition request, ATSDR gathered available information about air quality in Arlington and Tonopah. There was not enough air monitoring data to determine whether air pollution levels could harm people’s health. ATSDR decided to investigate further.

What is ATSDR doing in Arlington and Tonopah?

We are investigating whether breathing contaminants in air near egg production facilities in Arlington or Tonopah could harm people’s health. We will focus on assessing exposure to hydrogen sulfide and ammonia in air. We chose to focus on these contaminants because they are known to be related to animal feeding operations including egg farms. ATSDR will review air data collected by Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) and compare levels of measured air contaminants to screening and health effect levels determined by scientists. We will then write a health consultation report with ATSDR’s conclusions and recommendations, share the report with stakeholders, and work with them to implement these recommendations. ATSDR is not a regulatory agency, so we do not enforce laws or issue permits. We also do not provide health services or screenings.

How will you share the results of ATSDR’s investigations?

ATSDR will write a health consultation report that will summarize our investigation and present our conclusions and recommendations. ATSDR will post the report on our website and distribute it to people who have expressed interest in the investigation. After the report is released, ATSDR will hold a public meeting in the community to present the report, discuss the findings and recommendations, and respond to questions.

What is ADEQ?

ADEQ is the state of Arizona’s Department of Environmental Qualityexternal icon. Their mission is to protect and enhance public health and the environment. ADEQ has received many complaints about odors in the air in Arlington and Tonopah, Arizona. In 2018, they collected ambient air samples to measure the amount of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide in air in the Arlington and Tonopah areas.

How will ATSDR make conclusions and recommendations at this site?

ATSDR will use a health consultation process to investigate potential health risks. For this investigation, we plan to:

  • Review the air monitoring data that ADEQ collected in 2018.
  • Describe any data limitations.
  • Determine if there is a health risk, or state why we cannot determine if there is a health risk. We will compare the levels of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide measured in the air in Tonopah and Arlington to screening levels.
    • The screening levels are called “Minimal Risk Levels” (MRLs). They are an estimate of the daily human exposure to a hazardous substance that is unlikely to harm human health.
    • If community exposure is below screening levels, then health effects are unlikely.
    • If community exposure is above screening levels, ATSDR will do additional analysis.
    • We will base our health conclusions primarily on environmental information, not information about people’s health status.
  • Make recommendations to protect human health and communicate them to the community and other stakeholders. We may make recommendations to businesses, regulators, health departments, and households in the communities.
What recommendations has ATSDR made in previous investigations of hydrogen sulfide in air?

ATSDR has investigated hydrogen sulfide in air at different sites including at a dairy, and at construction and demolition landfills. ATSDR’s recommendations are based on analysis of available air monitoring data. The recommendations are intended to reduce or stop exposure to hydrogen sulfide among community members. The following documents provide examples of recommendations ATSDR has made in previous hydrogen sulfide investigations:

Page last reviewed: September 9, 2019