The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) is a federal public health agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It protects and works hand-in-hand with communities who are impacted by exposure to hazardous substances. This exposure often leads to harmful health effects, and many communities throughout the country seek information and aid. As a matter of fact 25% of people in the U.S. live within a 4-mile radius of a hazardous waste site. Within the last 3 decades, the agency has helped people in over 6,000 U.S. communities stay safe.
Hazardous waste is defined as any type of waste that poses either a substantial or potential threat to the environment and/or public health. Many different facilities generate hazardous waste, and it needs to be handled correctly and disposed of properly. Due to this, there are many laws and regulations on hazardous substances
The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (the “Superfund” Act) created ATSDR in 1980. Under congressional mandate, the ATSDR performs specific functions. These functions include:
- Public health assessments of waste sites and applied research in support of these assessments
- Emergency response to releases of hazardous substances
- The maintenance of health registries and surveillance
- Information dissemination and development
- Investigation of environmental health threats that are emerging, and conducting research on the health impacts of established hazardous waste sites
- Education and training on hazardous substances, as well as health consultation concerning these substances
- Providing actionable guidance to local and state health partners
The agency follows a standard health assessment process to promote healthy community environments and prevent harmful exposures. It assesses scientific data to determine risk, recommends that stakeholders such as the EPA take action, ensures recommendations are adopted, and then conducts its own health studies or collects additional data to better promote a healthy community.
The ATSDR website offers a database of toxicological profiles (Tox Profiles) on a wide variety of hazardous substances. These profiles contains extensive summaries and evaluation of toxicological information on known substances. There is also a Toxic Substances Portal, in which you may find important information by searching substances according to chemical class, audience, health effect, or alphabetical order.
ATSDR is a trusted agency that protects American communities. Its impact so far has been reducing mortality and morbidity rates related to man-made and natural toxic substances. It has been especially successful in protecting vulnerable populations (the elderly, pregnant women, and children) and advancing environmental medicine and science.