National Toxic Substances Incidents Program — Nine States, 2010–2014
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National Toxic Substances Incidents Program — Nine States, 2010–2014

Filetype[PDF-308.32 KB]

  • English

  • Details:

    • Alternative Title:
      MMWR Surveill Summ
    • Description:

      Every year in the United States, thousands of toxic substance incidents harm workers, first responders, and the public with the potential for catastrophic consequences. Surveillance data enable public health and safety professionals to understand the patterns and causes of these incidents, which can improve Prevention efforts and preparation for future incidents.

      Period Covered


      Description of System

      In 2010, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) initiated the National Toxic Substance Incidents Program (NTSIP), and it was retired in 2014. Nine state health departments participated in NTSIP Surveillance: California, Louisiana, North Carolina, New York, Missouri, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, and Wisconsin. The states conducted Surveillance on acute toxic substance incidents, defined as an uncontrolled or illegal acute (lasting <72 hours) release of any toxic substance including chemical, biologic, radiologic, and medical materials. Surveillance focused on associated morbidity and Mortality and public health actions. This report presents an overview of NTSIP and summarizes incidents and injuries from the nine participating states during 2010–2014.


      During 2010–2014, participating state health departments reported 22,342 incidents, of which 13,529 (60.6%) met the case definition for acute toxic substance incidents, and included 6,635 injuries among 5,134 injured persons, of whom 190 died. A trend Analysis of the three states participating the entire time showed a decrease in the number of incidents with injuries. NTSIP incidents were 1.8 times more likely and injured persons were 10 times more likely to be associated with fixed facilities than transportation. Natural gas, carbon monoxide, ammonia, and chemicals used in illegal methamphetamine production were the most frequent substances in fixed-facility incidents. Sodium and potassium hydroxide, hydrochloric acid, natural gas, and sulfuric acid were the most frequent substances in transportation-related incidents. Carbon monoxide was the most frequent substance in incidents with a large number of injured persons, and chemicals used in illegal methamphetamine production were the most frequent substance in incidents involving decontamination. Incidents most frequently occurred during normal business days (Monday through Friday) and hours (6:00 a.m.–5:59 p.m.) and warmer months (March–August). The transportation and warehousing industry sector had the largest number of incidents (4,476); however, most injured persons were injured in their private residences (1,141) or in the industry sectors of manufacturing (668), educational services (606), and real estate rental and leasing (425). The most frequently injured persons were members of the public (43.6%), including students. Injured first responders, particularly police, frequently were not wearing any chemically protective equipment. Respiratory system problems (23.9%) were the most frequently reported symptoms among injured persons and, in a related finding, volatilization was the most frequent type of release in incidents with injured persons.


      Industrial and transportation incidents occur frequently and have the potential for catastrophic outcomes. However, exposures to toxic substances occur frequently in other settings. Carbon monoxide, natural gas, and chemicals used in illegal methamphetamine production are commonly found in places where persons live, work, attend school, and recreate and are large contributors to incidents affecting the public. Having active NTSIP state Surveillance programs did appear to improve the incidents with morbidity and/or Mortality, but these programs have ended.

      Public Health Action

      Archived NTSIP public use data are available to download from the website for Analysis. There are also many publications and reports on the website to help understand chemical risks. In addition, jurisdictions might choose to collect Surveillance data themselves in a similar manner to what NTSIP states did. Chemical incident Surveillance data can be used by public health and safety practitioners, worker representatives, emergency planners, preparedness coordinators, industries, and emergency responders to prepare for and prevent chemical incidents and injuries. As noted by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, more action needs to be taken to prevent large industrial incidents. Although preventing such incidents might not be in the realm of public health, describing the public health implications and preparing for them is. Another important finding of NTSIP is that industrial incidents are only part of the problem. For example, a large number of persons were injured in a private residence or vehicle (22.2%) and an educational facility (11.8%). Public health professionals must resourcefully target Prevention and preparedness to protect vulnerable populations in locations where they might spend time (e.g., schools, daycares, nursing homes, recreational areas, jails, prisons, and hospitals). Reducing the threat of chemical incidents and injuries in the United States will require a concerted effort with a variety of stakeholders including industry and labor, responder groups, policymakers, academia, and citizen advocacy groups.

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