a highly toxic chemical requiring evacuation; or Level C/D, for
a mildly irritating chemical with possible slight odor at the facility fence line?
Adequate emergency response planning requires knowledge
of the toxicity of the chemical(s) in question, in addition to
specifics regarding the exposure scenarios. The Department of
Energy’s (DOE) Protective Action Criteria (PAC) incorporate
three categories of short-term (acute) exposure limits designed
to help emergency responders plan for protective actions following an uncontrolled release of hazardous chemicals. The
PAC limits include Acute Exposure Guideline Levels (AEGLs),
Emergency Response Planning Guidelines™ (ERPGs™), and Temporary Emergency Exposure Limits (TEELs).
Established by EPA, AEGLs represent airborne threshold exposure limits for the general public and are applicable to emergency exposure periods ranging from 10 minutes to 8 hours.
There are three levels of AEGL concentrations in order of increasing toxicity: AEGL-1 (discomfort), AEGL-2 (serious health
effects), and AEGL- 3 (life-threatening effects).
AIHA publishes ERPGs, which are maximum airborne concentrations below which it is believed that nearly all individuals
could be exposed for up to one hour without developing specified health effects. ERPGs have three levels—ERPG-1, ERPG-2,
and ERPG- 3—in order of increasing toxicity.
DOE also sponsors the development of Temporary Emergency
Exposure Limits (TEELs)—peak 15-minute exposure limits for
chemicals until AEGLs or ERPGs are developed. TEEL-0 is the
threshold concentration below which most people will experience no appreciable risk of health effects. TEEL-1, TEEL-2, and
TEEL- 3 are airborne concentrations of a substance in order of
increasing toxicity that are predicted to elicit specific health effects to the general population.
These PAC criteria concentrations are not directly applicable
to routine occupational exposure monitoring; however, in the
absence of an OEL for a particular substance, a PAC could be
used to draw a logical inference. For example, airborne chemical concentrations in the workplace at PAC Category 1, 2, or 3
levels represent a potential occupational hazard.
When surface sampling for chemical and/or dust residues is
helpful or appropriate, IHs typically establish a qualitative posi-tive/negative criterion. In other words, if the wipe or surface
dust sample(s) are analyzed by the lab as non-detect (or lower
than selected background areas) for the contaminant, the criterion has been met. Otherwise, more cleaning or disposal of the
contaminated area(s) or item(s), or other mitigation measures,
The government-sanctioned quantitative wipe or surface
contamination criteria that IHs should be aware of include the
EPA/Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
dust-lead hazard (in the child-occupied or residential setting),1
the DOE housekeeping and release criteria for beryllium (
affecting DOE employees and contractors),2 the EPA decontamination
standards for Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs), 3 and potential
jurisdictional surface contamination criteria for clandestine
methamphetamine lab clean-ups.
INSIGHT | DEPARTMENT
Links to Limits, and More
Relevance and Limitations
IHs may need to evaluate chemical exposure outside of routine
personal air sampling, including situations involving indoor air
quality, emergency response, and potentially contaminated surfaces. Before applying an exposure criterion outside of familiar
OELs to a given situation, IHs are advised to carefully weigh
that criterion’s relevance and limitations. Consultation with a
qualified toxicologist to select appropriate exposure limits is
can be reached at (818) 991-8240 or email@example.com.
1. “Lead-based Paint Poisoning Prevention in Certain Residential Structures,” Code of Federal Regulations Title 40, Part
2. “Chronic Beryllium Disease Prevention Program: Final Rule.”
Code of Federal Regulations Title 10, Part 850.
3. “Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) Manufacturing, Processing, Distribution in Commerce and Use Prohibitions.” Code
of Federal Regulations Title 40, Part 761.
CONNECT for CREDIT