About ATSDR - Sharing Our Stories: ATSDR’s Impact on Public Health

When harmful chemical exposure happens, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) is ready to respond. Our top priority is to protect people from harmful chemical exposures. ATSDR has helped people in more than 900 communities all over the country.

Did you know that environmental factors contribute to more than 25% of all diseases worldwide? In the U.S., the yearly cost of just four childhood health problems linked to chemical exposures- cancer, lead poisoning, asthma, and developmental disabilities – is greater than $54 billion. Chemicals make our lives easier and are included in everyday items like foods, personal care products, prescription drugs, and household cleaners. Sometimes, however, exposure to chemicals can harm us. Exposure to chemicals happens in homes, schools, workplaces, and throughout communities. Accidental releases, certain household products, or hazardous sites are all possible causes of chemical exposures.

These are the stories of the lives of people and communities and how ATSDR has protected their health over the past 25 years. We have been there in emergencies like Hurricane Katrina. We’ve helped people whose lives have been disrupted by harmful chemical spills. And we work hard every day to understand the cause of diseases through our health registry process.

Visit the NCEH/ATSDR blog, where we house our stories about how ATSDR helps create a safer, healthier America that enjoys protection from toxic substances.

In response to the environmental disasters at Love Canal and Times Beach, Missouri, Congress passed the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liabilities Act (CERCLA or “Superfund” law) in 1980. This law created ATSDR, which was formally organized in 1985. At first, ATSDR focused on evaluating toxic exposure just for communities near Superfund sites. As time went on, the agency began to assess requests from EPA; state, tribal or local agencies; residents; and communities.

1 in 4 people in the U.S. lives within 4 miles of a hazardous waste site. With staff in Atlanta as well as 10 regional offices and 25 state health departments across the country, ATSDR is available 24/7 to respond to local concerns and protect health during environmental emergencies like chemical spills and natural disasters.

Page last reviewed: March 12, 2021