The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, known as the ATSDR, was established in 1980 by the United States Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act. The Agency's role is to conduct health studies on the effects of
hazardous substances and to compile and maintain a registry of individuals exposed to toxic chemicals. Along with the Environmental Protection Agency, the Agency prepares toxic substance profiles and assesses various chemicals and situations for their effects on human health.
When ATSDR was created in 1980, it was formed as a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Originally, its domain was simply studies relating to health and toxic substances. With the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986, ATSDR was given the additional role of surveying Superfund
sites for health hazards. It now does this with the help of the National Center for Disease Control.
The ATSDR Logo. Image Credit: OSHA.
The original reports filed by ATSDR were criticized as inadequate. However, more recent reports have been considered more thorough and of higher quality. Yet, even these provide only a small amount of the available information, and some of this actually comes from reports filed by the companies that created
the hazard. ATSDR reports are considered to lack in other areas as well.
ATSDR has had more success with its other tasks. For the most part, the Agency has been efficient and accurate with both its chemical profiles and its registry of people who have suffered exposure to toxic substances.