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Emergency Response and Air Toxicants Branch

The Emergency Response and Air Toxicants Branch (ERAT) has three main focus areas: emergency preparedness and response, tobacco research, and exposure research related to environmental air toxicants.

ERAT staff develops analytical methods to measure, in people, substances such as chemicals and toxins, which could be used in acts of terrorism. ERAT developed and performs the Rapid Toxic Screen, which is a series of tests that analyzes people's blood and urine and determines the levels of 150 chemicals likely to be used by terrorists. The branch also works with public health laboratories in states, territories, cities, and counties (through the Laboratory Response Network) to assist in expanding their chemical laboratory capacity to prepare for and respond to chemical-terrorism incidents.

ERAT has developed mass spectrometry-based methods to provide sensitive and accurate measurements of toxins (e.g., botulinum, anthrax, or ricin) in clinical samples (e.g., blood, urine, feces) and environmental samples (e.g., milk, food, water).

The branch conducts research, develops methods, and analyzes chemicals related to tobacco products, including tobacco itself, and tobacco smoke and its constituents. ERAT also measures, in people, levels of biomarkers related to tobacco use.

Scientists conduct research, develop methods, and analyze samples for such environmental air toxicants as VOCs. Some of the chemicals measured are benzene, tetrachloroethene, trihalomethanes, and methyl tertiary butyl ether. Scientists in this group have also developed a method for measuring perchlorate, which is a chemical used in solid rocket propellant, explosives, pyrotechnics, flares, and other products.

ERAT has 89 staff members, including 3 physicians, 40 people with Ph.D.s, 7 people with M.S. degrees, and 37 people with B.S. or other degrees.

Did You Know?

  • In the early 1990s, the tobacco laboratory in the ERAT Branch produced data showing that 88 percent of the nonsmoking population was exposed to tobacco smoke. This finding was used as a justification for restricting smoking in public buildings.

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  • Page last reviewed: April 25, 2012
  • Page last updated: April 25, 2012 The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
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