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Occupational & Environmental Epidemiology

Toxic Substance Incidents

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

Toxic substance incident information is collected from multiple sources and entered into the NTSIP database for surveillance. When a spill occurs in North Carolina, staff track how the release occurred, what substance(s) was released, where it happened, and whether people were affected.

This program’s goal is to protect people from harm caused by acute toxic substance releases. 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, why, how, and who are affected by acute toxic substance releases.
  • To identify problem areas in North Carolina so the state can target and evaluate prevention efforts.
  • To prevent 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 ATSDR’s 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 (such as an evacuation or environmental sampling) 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 are only included if an injury was caused by the released substance or if a public health action was taken. Petroleum is not included if being used to fuel a vehicle at the time of the incident, unless another toxic substance was also released.

Incidents that occur at private homes (or other types of private property) are only included when a public health action was taken.

For a detailed explanation of the criterion used to determine if a toxic substance release is entered as a transportation event or a fixed facility event, please read the definition developed by ATSDR (PDF, 44KB). It may be different from how other organizations define these incidents.

Chemical Release Investigation Kit and Template (CRIKT)

The Chemical Release Investigation Kit & Template, also known as CRIKT, is the newest tool developed for local health departments to assist in public health preparedness and response to common chemical spills in North Carolina. The toolkit, modeled after the North Carolina Communicable Disease Manual, provides a step-by-step guide for local health departments on what to do and who to notify in the case of a chemical release.

Chemical releases are a public health concern in North Carolina. According to NTSIP, there were a total of 854 toxic chemical releases in North Carolina from 2010 to 2012, and 108 individuals were injured as a result of these releases. NTSIP data contributed to the development of CRIKT by identifying the most commonly released chemicals in the state, with each CRIKT focusing on a chemical of concern in North Carolina.

For more information about CRIKT, please visit the website.

Facts and Figures

For Additional Information