Hygienists, have established exposure limits for some substances and some exposures (e.g., workplace or ambient air quality), these limits are not easily or directly translated into emergency exposure limits for 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 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 expo-
1NAC completed its chemical reviews in October 2011. The committee was composed of members from EPA, DOD, many other federal and state agencies, industry, academia, and other organizations. From 1996 to 2011, the NAC discussed over 300 chemicals and developed AEGLs values for at least 272 of the 329 chemicals on the AEGLs priority chemicals lists. Although the work of the NAC has ended, the NAC-reviewed technical support documents are being submitted to the NRC for independent review and finalization.