Discussion Of Health Effects By Route Of Exposure

To help public health professionals address the needs of persons living or working near hazardous waste sites, the information in this section is organized first by route of exposure--inhalation, oral, and dermal--and then by health effect-death, systemic, immunological, neurological, developmental, reproductive, genotoxic, and carcinogenic effects. These data are discussed in terms of three exposure periods--acute (less than 15 days), intermediate (15-364 days), and chronic (365 days or more).

Levels of significant exposure for each route and duration are presented in tables and illustrated in figures. The points in the figures showing no-observed-adverse-effect levels (NOAELs) or lowest-observed-adverse-effect levels (LOAELs) reflect the actual doses (levels of exposure) used in the studies. LOAELs have been classified into "less serious" or "serious" effects. These distinctions are intended to help the users of the document identify the levels of exposure at which adverse health effects start to appear. They should also help to determine whether or not the effects vary with dose and/or duration, and place into perspective the possible significance of these effects to human health.

The significance of the exposure levels shown in the tables and figures may differ depending on the user's perspective. For example, physicians concerned with the interpretation of clinical findings in exposed persons may be interested in levels of exposure associated with "serious" effects. Public health officials and project managers concerned with appropriate actions to take at hazardous waste sites may want information on levels of exposure associated with more subtle effects in humans or animals (LOAEL) or exposure levels below which no adverse effects (NOAEL) have been observed. Estimates of levels posing minimal risk to humans (Minimal Risk Levels, MRLs) may be of interest to health professionals and citizens alike.

Estimates of exposure levels posing minimal risk to humans (MRLs) have been made, where data were believed reliable, for the most sensitive noncancer effect for each exposure duration. MRLs include adjustments to reflect human variability from laboratory animal data to humans.

Although methods have been established to derive these levels (Barnes et al. 1988; EPA 1989a), uncertainties are associated with these techniques. Furthermore, ATSDR acknowledges additional uncertainties inherent in the application of the procedures to derive less than lifetime MRLs. As an example, acute inhalation MRLs may not be protective for health effects that are delayed in development or are acquired following repeated acute insults, such as hypersensitivity reactions, asthma, or chronic bronchitis. As these kinds of health effects data become available and methods to assess levels of significant human exposure improve, these MRLs will be revised.

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