seven minority health-professions schools. Researchers work on projects designed to fill
data gaps about the health effects of hazardous substances. During FY 1999, the research
program continued funding for 11 studies that are providing information about the
neurotoxic or other health effects of substances such as zinc, manganese, lead, and
The Division of Toxicology also disseminates information through its Information
Center and provides technical assistance and response through its Emergency Response
Section. The Information Center received more than 77,250 requests for technical
information assistance and distributed more than 284,210 documents during FY 1999.
Most of the requests for information came from private citizens. In FY 1999, ATSDR's toll-
free telephone system received approximately 9,650 calls, about 3,000 more calls than in
FY 1998. ATSDR's Web site was accessed by more than 500,000 visitors in FY 1999.
In FY 1999, at the request of EPA's regional offices, other federal agencies, and state
and local agencies, ATSDR emergency-response personnel responded to requests for
information related to 42 acute events (13%), 227 time-critical requests (42%), and 247
non-time critical requests (45%) about hazardous substances. Emergency-response staff
provided on-site responses for one acute and two nonacute events. Following is an
example of the assistance ATSDR provided to emergency responders.
ATSDR assisted the Harris County Health Department in Houston, Texas, in its
response to a mercury spill at the headquarters of a nonprofit organization that
housed a prenatal clinic. Mercury was spilled in the clinic from a damaged blood
pressure monitor. ATSDR recommended an indoor action level and additional
precautions to prevent exposure of children and pregnant women. In response to
ATSDR's recommendations, Harris County temporarily closed the clinic and
CONDUCTING HEALTH STUDIES
ATSDR's Division of Health Studies conducts or funds health studies to evaluate the
relationship between exposure to hazardous substances and adverse health effects. It
also oversees the Hazardous Substances Emergency Events Surveillance System
(HSEES). During FY 1999, the division finalized 10 studies that it had conducted or
funded. It also issued the 1998 report of the HSEES.
Studies finalized in FY 1999 added to ATSDR's body of knowledge about the
relationship between various hazardous substances and seven priority health conditions.
These priority health conditions are health outcomes that ATSDR has identified as being
associated with exposure to hazardous substances. The seven conditions are birth
defects and reproductive disorders, cancer, immune function disorders, kidney
dysfunction, liver dysfunction, lung and respiratory diseases, and neurotoxic disorders.
Many of ATSDR's health studies look at one or more of these conditions. Of the studies
finalized in FY 1999, two dealt with birth defects and reproductive disorders, two with
cancer, and two with lung disease and respiratory disease. In addition, two studies
included several health outcomes.