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Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry

The United States Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, (ATSDR) is an agency for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that is directed by a congressional mandate to perform specific functions concerning the effect on public health of hazardous substances in the environment. These functions include public health assessments of waste sites, health consultations concerning specific hazardous substances, health surveillance and registries, emergency response to releases of hazardous substances, applied research in support of public health assessments, information development, and dissemination.

Additional recommended knowledge

ATSDR places an emphasis upon education and training concerning hazardous substances. The agency works closely with community members and organizations to encourage public involvement in ATSDR activities, including hearings and informational meetings which impact residents living in contaminated areas.


The United States Congress created the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry during 1980 in order to implement the health-related sections of laws that protect the public from hazardous wastes and environmental spills of hazardous substances. The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA), commonly known as the "Superfund" Act, provided the Congressional mandate to remove or clean up abandoned and inactive hazardous waste sites and to provide federal assistance in toxic emergencies. As the lead Agency within the Public Health Service for implementing the health-related provisions of CERCLA, ATSDR is charged under the Superfund Act to assess the presence and nature of health hazards at specific Superfund sites, as well as to help prevent or reduce further exposure and the illnesses that result from such exposures. Moreover, the agency's responsibility is to expand the knowledge base about health effects from exposure to hazardous substances.

Amendments were made to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 (RCRA), during 1984: These amendments provide for the management of legitimate hazardous waste storage or destruction facilities and authorize ATSDR to conduct public health assessments at these sites when the agency is requested to do so by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, (EPA), states, or individuals. ATSDR is also authorized to assist EPA in determining which substances should be regulated and the levels at which substances may pose a threat to human health.

With the passage of the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986 (SARA), ATSDR received additional responsibilities in environmental public health. This act broadened ATSDR's responsibilities in the areas of public health assessments, establishment and maintenance of toxicologic databases, dissemination of information, and medical education.

National Priority List

The Agency for Toxic Substance Disease Registry works closely with state and local legislators as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), United States Army Corps of Engineers, United States Department of Labor (DOL), United States Air Force, NASA, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), and Department of Homeland Security, among other agencies in addition to individuals, medical providers, citizens groups and organizations.

ATSDR and the EPA are required to prepare a prioritized list of substances that are most commonly found at facilities on the National Priorities List, (NPL), and which are determined to pose the most significant potential threat to human health due to their known or suspected toxicity and potential for human exposure at these NPL sites. CERCLA also requires this list to be revised each two years in order to reflect additional information on hazardous substances. The CERCLA priority list is revised and published with a yearly informal review and revision. Each substance on the CERCLA Priority List of Hazardous Substances is a candidate to become the subject of a toxicological profile prepared by ATSDR and subsequently a candidate for the identification of priority data needs.

The ATSDR, EPA, and CERCLA National Priority List is based on an algorithm that utilizes the following three components: frequency of occurrence at NPL sites, toxicity, and potential for human exposure to the substances found at NPL sites. This algorithm utilizes data from ATSDR's HazDat database, which contains information from ATSDR's public health assessments and health consultations. It should be noted that this priority list is not a list of "most toxic" substances, but rather a prioritization of substances based on a combination of their frequency, toxicity, and potential for human exposure at NPL sites; thus, it is possible for substances with low toxicity but high NPL frequency of occurrence and exposure to be on this priority list. The objective of this priority list is to rank substances across all NPL hazardous waste sites in order to provide guidance in selecting which substances will be the subject of toxicological profiles prepared by ATSDR which are developed from a priority list of 275 substances.

ATSDR also prepares toxicological profiles for the Department of Defense (DOD), and the Department of Energy (DOE), on substances related to federal sites.

See also

  • List of solid waste treatment technologies
  • List of Superfund sites in the United States
  • List of waste management topics
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Agency_for_Toxic_Substances_and_Disease_Registry". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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