Toxic Substance Incidents

Environmental 6

This program ended in 2016. Information for archival purposes.


Approximately 2,400 out of 15,000 annual toxic substance incidents in the United States result in death, illness or injury. These materials include chemicals, radiation and naturally occurring matter that could cause harm to people or the environment. Acute toxic incidents may range from illicit methamphetamine lab explosions in homes to chemical suicides in automobiles and from industrial chemical releases to transportation accidents. These events frequently require actions to protect public health such as evacuation, in-place sheltering or decontamination.

Tennessee was one of only seven states to be awarded a Cooperative Agreement from the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry for the National Toxic Substance Incidents Program (NTSIP). The Environmental Epidemiology Program collects and combines information from many resources to protect people from harm caused by spills and leaks of toxic substances. Data is gathered through our partnerships with the National Response Center, Tennessee Emergency Management Agency and Department of Transportation as well as from news media reports. NTSIP surveillance data is used to prepare prevention messages to protect the general public from chemical exposure.

The goals of our NTSIP are to:

Goal 1:   Describe hazardous substance incidents that required a public health action,
Goal 2:   Identify communities at greater risk of an incident occurring in their neighborhood, and
Goal 3:   Identify, develop and promote outreach activities to protect the public from hazardous substances.

 NTSIP Surveillance

Since 2010, data have been aggregated from the National Response CenterTennessee Emergency Management AgencyU.S. Department of TransportationTennessee Meth Task Force, law enforcement records and media reports. Usually within 48 hours, incident information is entered into a national database. EEP analyzes the data to describe toxic substance releases. We share the information with local partners and use the information to target prevention activities.

Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning was recently added to the TDH List of Reportable Diseases and Events. Surveillance of CO poisoning was established to find the burden of CO exposure and to support public health prevention and intervention activities. Learn more about CO poisoning reporting.


Data was collected about toxic substance incidents in Tennessee like:

Interactive Toxic Substance Incidents
  • Number of incidents
  • Type of incidents
  • Cause of incidents
  • Type of industries
  • Type of chemical
  • Number of injuries
  • Cause of injuries

We collected data to find out what chemicals were released most often, where chemical incidents were more frequent, what industries were more likely to have had an accident, and more.

 Prevention Activities

Based on data, observation and risk, we developed web-based fact sheets to educate and promote safety and prevention. For example, TN NTSIP surveillance data showed increased illness and injury from carbon monoxide incidents. One major source of carbon monoxide exposure was from using a generator indoors during severe weather power outages. Learn more about chemicals that have led to public health actions by following these links:

TN NTSIP uses our surveillance data to target our outreach and education. For example, we participated in a Community Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response (CASPER) exercise that engaged the general public about carbon monoxide exposure. We asked carbon monoxide risk questions, collected data and distributed a carbon monoxide factsheet. Another NTSIP project looked at neighborhoods near industries. People in these neighborhoods may have an increased potential to coming into contact with pollutants. TN NTSIP identified vulnerable communities using the Social Vulnerability Index, a tool developed by ATSDR. Populations identified as vulnerable were then targeted for prevention and intervention.

 Success Stories

Visit our NTSIP Success Stories webpage to learn more about how are projects have impacted public health and assisted people across Tennessee.

 Contact Information

Call 911 to report an emergency or chemical release. In many communities, the local fire department is trained for first response to hazmat incidents. To report general environmental concerns in Tennessee, call the Department of Environment and Conservation at 1-888-891-8332, during normal business hours. For more information about our program or about a particular toxic substance, contact the Department of Health’s NTSIP Program at 615-741-7247 or via e-mail at

Tennessee NTSIP infographic