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History of the AEGL Program

In 1986, the National Advisory Committee for the Development of Acute Exposure Guideline Levels for Hazardous Substances (AEGL/NAC Committee or AEGL Committee) was formed to develop and recommend AEGLs for hazardous chemicals for use in chemical emergency programs. These levels can be used by federal, state and local agencies, the private sector and foreign organizations for emergency planning, prevention and response activities related to the accidental release of hazardous substances.

EPA has been actively involved since 1988 in a program leading to the development of short-term exposure guidelines for accidental air-borne chemical releases. In April, 1988, EPA's Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT) organized and held a National Workshop to determine the status of short-term exposure guideline level development. Based on the findings of the workshop, the idea to establish a combined effort for the future development of short-term guideline levels was conceived and a program was implemented.

In September, 1989, OPPT and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) provided funding for a cooperative agreement with the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to develop a methodology that could be used to develop short-term exposure guideline levels. The NAS commenced work on this task in October, 1990. From October, 1990 until February, 1993, OPPT staff continually met with the NAS Committee on Toxicology to articulate specific uses of, and requirements for, short-term exposure guideline levels. In June, 1993, the NAS published its report, entitled Guidelines for Developing Community Emergency Exposure Levels for Hazardous Substances.

With the methodology now available, OPPT initiated the next series of steps to develop the concept of a working committee and solicit support and participation from federal and state agencies and organizations in the private sector to establish a joint committee to develop the exposure guideline levels. The AEGL Committee was formed and first met in June, 1996. For 15 years, the AEGL committee discussed over 300 chemicals and developed AEGL values for at least 273 of the 329 chemicals on the AEGL priority chemical lists. The last meeting of the AEGL committee was in April 2010 and the charter of the FACA committee expired in October 2011. Although the work of the AEGL committee has ended, the AEGL program is still operational and works with the National Academies to publish final AEGLs.

During its operation, the AEGL/NAC committee was fortunate to have dedicated members that contributed to set the standard for a new and fruitful way to develop a single high quality scientific product required by many federal and state agencies as well as private sector groups.

Some of the key accomplishments of the AEGL committee are the following:

  • Represented a major pooling of resources from the public sector (federal and state agencies) and the private sector (academic, non-profit organizations, and private industry). This provided greater scientific validity of the exposure guideline levels developed as a result of
    greater resources for more comprehensive data gathering and the utilization of a broader base of scientific knowledge and expertise.

  • Represented a significant cross-section of scientists in toxicology and related fields from both the public and private sectors as well as the international community. This fostered consensus among the entire scientific community.

  • Resulted in the establishment of national, standardized acute exposure guideline levels for all federal and state agencies in the public sector and all private companies and non-profit organizations in the private sector. This prevented individual federal and state agencies and private industry from developing their own individual exposure guideline levels, which would result in the publication and use of different values and cause major confusion and controversy among regulatory agencies, private industry and confusion and concern among the general public.

  • Resulted in greater efficiency and greater productivity in the development of exposure guideline levels. This approach eliminated duplication of effort and, through the use of pooled financial and staff resources and the overlap of priority lists of chemicals from various agencies and organizations, substantially reduced the cost of developing the exposure guideline levels per chemical per agency or entity.

  • Fostered the acceptance of the exposure guideline levels by all participating agencies and organizations in the public and private sectors as well as foreign countries, since they are both the creators and users of the exposure guideline levels. Also, the AEGL committee fostered confidence among the general public with the concurrence and publication of the values by NAS.

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