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Chemical Hazards

Chemical agent information is needed for workers to appropriately plan for risks resulting from possible chemical incidents. Several organizations have developed information databases, including short-term and long-term criteria, each with specific purposes, exposure scenarios, and severity of adverse health effects considered in their development.

Available Resources

Chemical Hazards Emergency Medical Management [CHEMM]External

This is a web-based guide for identification of chemical exposures during emergency response incidents along with subsequent medical treatment options. The purpose of this guide is to mitigate chemical exposure casualties for civilians, workers, military personnel, emergency responders, and hospital providers.

The following databases provide detailed information on a variety of chemical agents associated with emergency response, including information on how to protect workers from exposures to these agents.

  • The Emergency Response Safety and Health Database (ERSH-DB)
    Developed by NIOSH for the emergency response community, the ERSH-DB contains accurate and concise information on high-priority chemical, biological and radiological agents that could be encountered by personnel responding to a terrorist event.
  • NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards
    The Pocket Guide is a source of general industrial hygiene information on several hundred chemicals/classes found in the work environment. Key data provided for each chemical/substance includes name (including synonyms/trade names), structure/formula, CAS/RTECS Numbers, DOT ID, conversion factors, exposure limits, IDLH, chemical and physical properties, measurement methods, personal protection, respirator recommendations, symptoms, and first aid.
  • Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Response (CDC) Chemical Agents List A-Z
    Facts, description and emergency response information from CDC related to the over eighty specific chemical agents (by category and alphabetically).
  • Acute Exposure Guideline Levels (AEGLs)External
    AEGLs are Environmental Protection Agency-recommended criteria and are intended to describe the risk to humans resulting from once-in-a-lifetime, or rare, exposure to airborne chemicals. The National Advisory Committee for the Development of Acute Exposure Guideline Levels for Hazardous Substances (AEGL Committee) is involved in developing these guidelines to help both national and local authorities, as well as private companies, deal with emergencies involving spills, or other catastrophic exposures.
  • International Chemical Safety Cards
    The International Chemical Safety Cards offer essential health and safety information on chemicals to promote their safe use. They are intended to be used at the “shop floor” level by workers and employers in factories, agriculture, construction and other places of work, being particularly useful in less developed areas and in small and medium size enterprises. They are also designed to be part of education and training activities.
  • ToxnetExternal
    A search engine accessing several databases on toxicology, hazardous chemicals, environmental health, and toxic releases provided by the National Library of Medicine.
  • ATSDR profiles
    By Congressional mandate, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) produces “toxicological profiles” for hazardous substances found at National Priorities List sites. These hazardous substances are ranked based on frequency of occurrence at NPL sites, toxicity, and potential for human exposure. Toxicological profiles are developed from a priority list of 275 substances.
  • ToxFAQs
    The ATSDR ToxFAQs™ is a series of summaries about hazardous substances, which contain information excerpted from the ATSDR Toxicological Profiles and Public Health Statements. Each fact sheet serves as a quick and easy to understand guide. Answers are provided to the most frequently asked questions about exposure to hazardous substances found around hazardous waste sites and the effects of exposure on human health.
  • Medical Management Guidelines
    The Medical Management Guidelines (MMGs) for Acute Chemical Exposures were developed by ATSDR to aid emergency department physicians and other emergency healthcare professionals who manage acute exposures resulting from chemical incidents. The MMGs 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.
  • Toxicology Interaction Profiles
    A series of documents called Interaction Profiles are being developed for certain priority mixtures that are of special concern to ATSDR. The purpose of the Interaction Profile is to evaluate data on the toxicology of the “whole” priority mixture (if available) and on the joint toxic action of the chemicals in the mixture in order to recommend approaches for the exposure-based assessment of the potential hazard to public health.

NIOSH Chemical Safety Topic Page
This web page provides links to NIOSH chemical topic pages and other resources on chemical safety. The available resources include publications and products related to the safe management of chemicals, guidance on the estimation of workplace health risks and exposures, ongoing research, engineering controls and tools for the safe manipulation of chemicals in the workplace.

Emergency Response Guidebook (Department of Transportation)External
This guidebook was developed for first responders to use during the initial phase of a dangerous goods/hazardous materials transportation incident. It is intended for firefighters, police, and other emergency services personnel who may be the first to arrive at the scene of a transportation incident involving a hazardous material.

Technical Assistance ReportCdc-pdf – Assessment of Emergency Responders Following Vinyl Chloride Release from a Train Derailment — New Jersey, 2012 [PDF – 360 KB]

Paulsboro Responder Survey IntroductionCdc-pdf – This document is an introduction to the Paulsboro Responder Survey. It explains the purpose for administering the survey, what topics the survey will address, and how long the survey will take to complete. — New Jersey, 2012 [PDF – 58 KB]

Paulsboro Responder SurveyCdc-pdf – This survey was administered to emergency personnel who responded to the event in order to assess experiences from the train derailment, responder health before and after the vinyl chloride release, and details related to job training. — New Jersey, 2012 [PDF – 155 KB]

Page last reviewed: November 27, 2018