exposures at high levels but of short duration, usually less than 1 hour (h), and only once in a lifetime for the general population, which includes infants (from birth to 3 years (y) of age), children, the elderly, and persons with diseases, such as asthma or heart disease.
The National Research Council (NRC) Committee on Toxicology (COT) has published many reports on emergency exposure guidance levels and spacecraft maximum allowable concentrations for chemicals used by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) (NRC 1968, 1972, 1984a,b,c,d, 1985a,b, 1986a, 1987, 1988, 1994, 1996a,b, 2000a, 2002a, 2007a, 2008a). COT has also published guidelines for developing emergency exposure guidance levels for military personnel and for astronauts (NRC 1986b, 1992, 2000b). Because of COT’s experience in recommending emergency exposure levels for short-term exposures, in 1991 EPA and ATSDR requested that COT develop criteria and methods for developing emergency exposure levels for EHSs for the general population. In response to that request, the NRC assigned this project to the COT Subcommittee on Guidelines for Developing Community Emergency Exposure Levels for Hazardous Substances. The report of that subcommittee, Guidelines for Developing Community Emergency Exposure Levels for Hazardous Substances (NRC 1993), provides step-by-step guidance for setting emergency exposure levels for EHSs. Guidance is given on what data are needed, what data are available, how to evaluate the data, and how to present the results.
In November 1995, the National Advisory Committee (NAC)1 for Acute Exposure Guideline Levels for Hazardous Substances was established to identify, review, and interpret relevant toxicologic and other scientific data and to develop acute exposure guideline levels (AEGLs) for high-priority, acutely toxic chemicals. The NRC’s previous name for acute exposure levels—community emergency exposure levels (CEELs)—was replaced by the term AEGLs to reflect the broad application of these values to planning, response, and prevention in the community, the workplace, transportation, the military, and the remediation of Superfund sites.
AEGLs represent threshold exposure limits (exposure levels below which adverse health effects are not likely to occur) for the general public and are applicable to emergency exposures ranging from 10 minutes (min) to 8 h. Three levels—AEGL-1, AEGL-2, and AEGL-3—are developed for each of five exposure periods (10 min, 30 min, 1 h, 4 h, and 8 h) and are distinguished by varying degrees of severity of toxic effects. The three AEGLs are defined as follows:
AEGL-1 is the airborne concentration (expressed as ppm [parts per million] or mg/m3 [milligrams per cubic meter]) of a substance above which it is predicted that the general population, including susceptible individuals, could experience notable discomfort, irritation, or certain asymptomatic nonsensory