Toxicological Information Sources (4)
A. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR)ATSDR is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It was created by Congress in 1980 to provide health-based information for use in the cleanup of chemical waste disposal sites mandated by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). As the lead agency for implementing the health-related guidelines of CERCLA, ATSDR assesses the presence and nature of health hazards at specific Superfund Sites, to help prevent or reduce further exposure and the illnesses that result from such exposures, and to expand the knowledge-base about health effects from exposure to hazardous substances.
ATSDR is mostly concerned with the health effects that may occur from exposure to toxic chemicals. ATSDR’s Hazardous Substances and Health Effects Database (HazDat) discusses the issue. ATSDR also publishes Toxicological Profiles (which provide information on specific chemicals and possible health effects), Case Studies in Environmental Medicine (which are used to provide information to health care providers about the toxic effects of chemicals), and Public Health Statements (which contain information on toxic chemical exposures)(4).
ATSDR’s Division of Toxicology also produces ToxFAQs™, a series of summaries about hazardous substances. Information for this series is excerpted from the ATSDR Toxicological Profiles and Public Health Statements. Each ToxFAQ summary is quick and easy to understand, and answers the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) about exposure to hazardous substances found around hazardous waste sites and the effects of exposure on human health. Medical Management Guidelines for Acute Chemical Exposures (Guidelines) were developed by ATSDR to aid emergency department physicians and other emergency healthcare professionals who manage acute exposures resulting from chemical incidents. The guidelines are intended to aid healthcare professionals involved in emergency response to effectively decontaminate patients, protect themselves and others from contamination, communicate with other involved personnel, efficiently transport patients to a medical facility, and provide competent medical evaluation and treatment to exposed persons.
B. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)EPA is responsible for a number of activities, including enforcing federal laws designed to protect human health and the environment. There are ten regional EPA offices throughout the United States, with EPA headquarters located in Washington, D.C. Each regional office is responsible within selected states for implementing the agency’s programs, considering regional needs and implementing federal environmental laws. Following is a list of the regions and the states they cover.
Refer to Figure 1.1 – Map of EPA Regional Offices [PDF – 2 MB]
- Region 1: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont
- Region 2: New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands
- Region 3: Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, the District of Columbia
- Region 4: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee
- Region 5: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin
- Region 6: Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas
- Region 7: Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska
- Region 8: Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Wyoming
- Region 9: Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, the territories of Guam and American Samoa
- Region 10: Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Washington
The specific chemicals regulated by EPA and the standards associated with them are found in the Code of Federal Regulations or CFR. The different sections of the CFR are called Titles, and the ones that apply to EPA are in Title 40 (1). EPA has developed rules and regulations that activate the requirements of several environmental laws provided below.
Trainer Note: Refer to Table 1.1 which is a list of selected EPA laws that regulate chemicals in the environment. [PDF – 50 KB]
- In addition, the following EPA Laws regulate chemicals in the environment:
- The Clean Air Act implements regulations that control and abate air emissions from stationary and mobile sources.
- The Clean Water Act regulates discharge of pollutants to surface waters.
- The Safe Drinking Water Act establishes standards for contaminants in drinking water; regulates discharges to underground injection wells, sole source aquifers, and public drinking water systems.
- The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA or Superfund) deals with cleanup of hazardous waste sites and definition of requirements for response to hazardous waste spills.
- The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) deals with identification and regulation of hazardous waste treatment, storage, and disposal.
- The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) requires registration and testing of pesticides, regulates their sale, distribution, and use.
- The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) requires testing and reporting of chemicals prior to manufacturing, distribution, and use; and restricts the use of chemicals that pose a threat to human health and the environment.
- The Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA) requires companies to report inventories of hazardous chemicals and toxic releases; and requires state and local governments to develop plans for responding to emergency releases.
In addition, EPA’s Office of Research and Development (ORD) studies the effects of toxic exposure on people and the environment.
C. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)CDC is an agency in the Department of Health and Human Services, its mission is to promote health and quality of life by preventing and controlling disease, injury, and disability. In the past, the CDC has focused on the study and prevention of infectious diseases such as malaria and smallpox. However, now its responsibilities have enlarged to include environmental and occupational hazards.
Refer participants to Table 1.2 (Handout 1.3) – CDC Organizational Offices [PDF – 33 KB]
T he CDC Centers that deal with environmental health are the National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) (2). NCEH addresses hazards associated with chemical exposure inside and outside the workplace. NIOSH was established by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. NIOSH has several functions, including investigating potentially hazardous work conditions, and evaluating chemical hazards in the workplace. NIOSH is the only federal institute responsible for conducting research and making recommendations for the prevention of work-related illnesses and injuries. NIOSH’s responsibilities include:
- Investigating potentially hazardous working conditions as requested by employers or employees,
- Evaluating hazards in the workplace, ranging from chemicals to machinery,
- Creating and disseminating methods for preventing disease, injury, and disability,
- Conducting research and providing scientifically valid recommendations for protecting workers; and
- Providing education and training to individuals preparing for or actively working in the field of occupational safety and health. Information gathered from these activities is used to help reduce disease, injury and disability in the workplace. The information is provided to OSHA, which uses it to establish standards to protect health in the workplace.
D. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) (1)NRC, established in 1974, regulates the use of nuclear materials for commercial, industrial, academic, and medical purposes. This includes regulating nuclear power plants, nuclear materials used in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, and nuclear materials used in smoke detectors. NRC also regulates non-power research, test and training reactors; nuclear fuel cycle facilities (the production of nuclear fuel); and the transport, storage, and disposal of nuclear materials and waste. Like OSHA and EPA, NRC obtains and evaluates information about acceptable exposure levels for workers handling nuclear materials.
E. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) (5)FDA promotes and protects the public health by helping safe and effective products reach the market in a timely way, and monitoring products for continued safety after they are in use.
F. The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH)ACGIH is a professional organization that produces a listing of Threshold Limit Values (TLV) and Biological Exposure Indices (BEI) for several hundred chemicals, updating them every year. BEIs are recommended maximum concentrations of various types of toxic substances, and are guidelines to evaluate the potential health hazards associated with exposure. The maximum concentration may be measured in blood, urine, or exhaled air. The TLVs are guidelines for occupational exposure to hazardous chemicals and are published in a booklet called Threshold Limit Values (TLVs) for Chemical Substances and Physical Agents and Biological Exposure Indices (6).
G. Electronic Databases
Information on toxic chemicals is available at the following sites:
- Toxicology Data Network (TOXNET – www.toxnet.nlm.nih.gov). Several databases, such as the Hazardous Substances Data Bank (HSDB) and the Registry of Toxic Effects of Chemical Substances (RTECS), can be found in the TOXNET database. The HSDB has toxicological information on more than 4,000 chemicals, as well as information on emergency handling procedures, environmental data, regulatory status, and human exposure. The RTECS is maintained by NIOSH and contains information on the health effects for more than 90,000 chemicals.
- CHEMTREC (Chemical Transportation Emergency Center – www.chemtrec.org). CHEMTREC is provided by the American Chemistry Council (formerly known as the Chemical Manufacturer’s Association) and provides information and assistance for emergency incidents involving chemicals and hazardous materials. CHEMTREC also supplies basic information about the production, shipping, and use of chemicals and provides information about medical treatment in response to chemical exposures.
- Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) are available on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration website: www.osha.gov. MSDSs provide information such as physical and chemical properties of a substance, first aid information, emergency response, and disposal information.
- Hazardous Substances and Health Effects Database (HazDat), available on ATSDR’s website at www.atsdr.cdc.gov. contains information on hazardous substances found at National Priorities List (NPL) and non-NPL waste sites and emergency events, and on the levels at which health effects from exposure to hazardous substances have been reported in humans and animals. HAZDAT contains environmental contamination and other data on more than 3,000 uncontrolled hazardous waste sites for which ATSDR has conducted public health assessments, prepared health consultations, or provided responses to emergencies involving releases of toxic substances into community environments. It contains toxicity information taken from the ATSDR’s Toxicological Profiles for more than 200 substances most frequently found at sites (4).