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NC Department of Health and Human Services
NC Division of Public Health
N.C. Public Health Home

Occupational & Environmental Epidemiology

Toxic Substance Incidents

North Carolina uses a surveillance system known as the National Toxic Substance Incidents Program (NTSIP) External link to monitor toxic substance releases that occur within the state. With the support of the Agency for Toxic Substance and Diseases Registry (ATSDR) External link, this data is combined with that of other states to form a national database of toxic substance incidents. NTSIP builds on the data previously collected by the Hazardous Substance Emergency Events Surveillance (HSEES) program.

For surveillance, we collect and combine information from many sources to give a clearer picture of why and where releases occur. When a spill happens in North Carolina, we track what substance was released, where it happened and whether people were harmed.

The goal of this program is to protect people from harm caused by acute toxic substance releases (see below for detailed definition). Specific program objectives are:

  • To coordinate North Carolina NTSIP efforts with other federal, state, and local agencies to collect and share data.
  • To describe where, when, and who are affected by acute toxic substance releases.
  • To identify high priority problem areas in North Carolina so the state can target and evaluate prevention efforts.
  • To enable prevention of incidents by promoting safer product alternatives, transport and handling methods, and/or manufacturing system designs.

To achieve these objectives, program staff interact with stakeholders including government officials, responders, and industry personnel who are working to achieve a safer environment for the people of North Carolina.

How an Acute Toxic Substance Release Is Defined

Data are collected for NTSIP using the following case definition: an uncontrolled or illegal acute release of any toxic substance meeting predetermined criteria. A release is defined as acute if it lasts less than 72 hours. A substance is considered toxic if it can reasonably be expected to cause adverse human health effects. The predetermined criterion for surveillance eligibility includes the type of substance released, the quantity released, and whether or not a public health action was taken.

A list of highly toxic substances was established by ATSDR to specify substances that are to be reported to the surveillance database when any amount of that material is released. These substances were selected using information from credible, external lists of hazardous substances. Toxic substances not specified on this list are typically reported if the amount released is greater than or equal to 1 gallon or 10 pounds.

Single-substance petroleum incidents or stack/flare incidents are only included if an injury was caused by the released substance or if a public health action was required. Petroleum is not included if being used to fuel a vehicle at the time of the incident, unless another toxic substance was also released.

Facts and Figures

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