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Topic 1.1 The Role of ATSDR

The Five Ws of ATSDR

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) has been helping to protect public health throughout the United States for almost 30 years.

To view information about ATSDR, click on each question in the following list.


The Agency is a federal entity with the primary mission of serving the public by using the best science, taking responsive public health actions, and providing trusted health information to prevent harmful exposures and disease related toxic substances


Congress established ATSDR as a separate agency to ensued the public health issues at Superfund sites would be addressed. Congress also directed ATSDR to establish a national registry of serious diseases and illnesses and a national registry of persons exposed to toxic substances.


The agency’s staff includes epidemiologists, physicians, toxicologists, engineers, public health educators, health communication specialists, environmental health specialists, hydrogeologists, and support personnel.


ATSDR was created by the Superfund law in 1980


The agency’s headquarters are in Atlanta, Georgia; there are ten regional offices throughout the United States, as well as an office in Washington, D.C.

How does ATSDR become involved with a site?

ATSDR is required by the Superfund law to conduct public health assessment activities at all sites on (or proposed for) EPA’s National Priorities List for Uncontrolled Hazardous Waste Sites (NPL).

Any person, group, or agency can request ATSDR’s assistance on any health-related issues concerning toxic chemicals released into the environment.

For more information on how to request ATSDR’s assistance, contact the The center’s toll-free telephone number is 1-800-232-4636.

Additional Information on the Superfund Law

The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) of 1980 is referred to as the Superfund law. By enacting this law, Congress established a fund to identify and clean up the nation’s hazardous waste sites. EPA administers the Superfund program in cooperation with individual states, territories, and tribal governments. EPA’s Office of Emergency and Remedial Response oversees management of the program. CERCLA was amended by the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA) in 1986.

EPA maintains a Web site with information about NPL sites (also called Superfund sites). The Web address is

Additional information on the National Priorities List for Uncontrolled Hazardous Waste Sites

EPA’s National Priorities List for Uncontrolled Hazardous Waste Sites (NPL) is a published list of hazardous waste sites that are being addressed through the Superfund program. These Superfund sites are found throughout the United States and in several U.S. territories. For a state-by-state listing of NPL sites, visit

You can find ATSDR’s reports on NPL sites available online at