Topic 1.1 The Role of ATSDR

The Five W’s of ATSDR, the What, Why, Who, When, and Where

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

What is ATSDR?

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 to toxic substances.

Why was ATSDR established?

Congress established ATSDR as a separate agency to ensure that 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.

Who is on the agency’s staff?

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

When was ATSDR created?

ATSDR was created by the Superfund law in 1980.

Where is ATSDR located?

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

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 ATSDR Information Center. The center’s toll-free telephone number is 1-888-422-8737, and the center’s e-mail address is Exiting the ATSDR Web Site.

Superfund Law

The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) external iconof 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)external icon in 1986.

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

The National Priorities List

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 icon.

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

Page last reviewed: May 31, 2016