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Have you read the latest MMWR? Unless you are a scientist or health professional, you probably don’t recognize those initials!

MMWR stands for Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, a publication of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is CDC’s primary vehicle for publishing timely and useful public health information. MMWR is unique in that it is the official voice of CDC and combines regular weekly publication, early release of urgent findings and recommendations (within 12 hours), and a close relationship with public health officials at local, state, and federal levels. Its mission is to inform the medical and public health communities and the public about new, reemerging, and ongoing threats to people’s health–and actions that can reduce those threats. MMWR-Home-pageMMWR also publishes major CDC reports, such as national disease surveillance reports and official recommendations.

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry’s (ATSDR’s) National Toxic Substance Incidents Program (NTSIP) and former Hazardous Substances Emergency Events Surveillance (HSEES) program have relied heavily on MMWR since 1994. NTSIP collects and combines information from many resources to protect people from harm caused by spills and leaks of toxic substances. HSEES and NTSIP data have been used for 19 MMWR publications publicizing emerging threats including the dangers of using easily obtained chemicals to make chemical bombs, fireworks, biodiesel, and methamphetamine—or to commit suicide. NTSIPMMWR also published information about ATSDR’s discovery of exposure to carbon monoxide (CO) from an unusual source: aging underground utility wires corroded by road salt, causing them to burn and generate CO that got into nearby buildings.

In addition, through MMWR, ATSDR has brought focus to everyday chemical threats that receive little attention, such as

  • Recreational water-related chemical incidents
  • Incidents in schools
  • Improperly discarded chemicals affecting sanitation workers
  • Chemical releases from railcars.

MMWR also publishes the findings of ATSDR’s Assessment of Chemical Exposure (ACE) Epi-Aid investigations. The ACE program within NTSIP investigates large chemical release incidents and provides valuable information to health agencies in places where people have been exposed to toxic chemicals. The data gathered in these investigations provide insight into causes of the incidents, possible health effects from chemical exposure, and ways to prepare or protect people who might be at risk for exposure. For example, MMWR published findings from a release of chlorine gas at a metal recycling facility in California in 2010.


MMWR has also published briefs to highlight some unexpected exposures ATSDR staff have discovered, such as mercury in antiques and tear gas in theft deterrent devices in a safe.

Now that you know about MMWR, you can watch for other NTSIP/ACE investigation reports to learn more about chemical releases and their potential health effects.

Read more about the history of HSEES and NTSIP.

Find all NTSIP publications.

Access published articles about HSEES and NTSIP investigations.


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