The objective of hazard identification is to determine whether available scientific data describes a causal relationship between an environmental agent and demonstrated injury to human health or the environment. In humans, observed injuries may include birth defects, neurological damage, or cancer. Ecological hazards might result in fish kills, habitat destruction, or other environmental effects. If a potential hazard is identified, three other analyses become important for the overall risk assessment.
Chemical toxicities are categorized according to the various health effects resulting from exposure. The health effects, often referred to as endpoints, are classified as acute (short-term) and chronic (long-term). Acute toxic effects occur over a short period of time (from seconds to days), for example: skin burns from strong acids and poisonings from cyanide. Chronic toxic effects last longer and develop over a much longer period of time, and include cancer, birth defects, genetic damage, and degenerative illnesses.
A wide variety of reference materials provide basic tox-icity data on specific chemicals, including:
Registry of Toxic Effects of Chemical Substances (RTECS),
(U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) Health Assessment Guidance Manual (U.S. Department of
Health and Human Services 1990) The Handbook of Toxic and Hazardous Chemicals and
Carcinogens (Sittig 1985) Threshold Limit Values (TLVs) for Chemical Substances and Physical Agents and Biological Exposure Indices (BEIs) American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH 1990) Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS), a database supported by EPA Office of Research and Development, Environmental Criteria and Assessment Office (MS-190), Cincinnati, Oh. 45268, Telephone: 513-569-7916
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has classified some 35,000 chemicals as definitely or potentially harmful to human health. However, the risk resulting from ex-
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