RESOURCES: Chemicals fact sheets (from ATSDR)

Chemicals, Cancer, and You (PDF, 633 kb, 21 pages)
How Chemical Exposures Happen (PDF, 237 kb, 4 pages)
How to Reduce Your Exposure to Chemicals (PDF, 477 kb, 8 pages)
Health Effects of Chemical Exposure (PDF, 482 kb, 4 pages)
Sensitive Populations (PDF, 4.5 Mb, 4 pages)

RESOURCE: Chemicals

Chemicals classes are groupings that relate chemicals by similar features. Chemicals can be classified by their structure (e.g., hydrocarbons), uses (e.g., pesticides), physical properties (e.g., volatile organic compounds [VOCs]), radiological properties (e.g., radioactive materials), or other factors. The chemical classes identified below are ones used by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) to address hazardous substances.

View links about chemicals by clicking here.

Chemical Classification

  • Benzidines/Aromatic amines:
    Benzidines and aromatic amines contain nitrogen atoms inside or attached to benzene-type rings. Benzidines are or were used in the production of dyes or pigments. Aromatic amines are used in insecticides or in polymer production. Learn more by clicking here.
    (external link to...
  • Dioxins, Furans, PCBs (contain phenyl rings of carbon atoms)
    Dioxins, furans, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are a class of similar chlorinated aromatic organic compounds. Dioxins have two phenyl rings connected by two oxygen atoms. Furans have one or two phenyl rings connected to a furan ring. PCBs have two phenyl rings attached at one point. One or more chlorine atoms can attach to any available carbon atom, allowing for 100 - 200 forms of each. Dioxins and dioxin-like furans have no known commercial or natural use. They are produced primarily during the incineration or burning of waste; the bleaching processes used in pulp and paper mills; and the chemical syntheses of trichlorophenoxyacetic acid, hexachlorophene, vinyl chloride, trichlorophenol, and pentachlorophenol. PCBs were once synthesized for use as heat-exchanger, transformer, and hydraulic fluids, and also used as additives to paints, oils, window caulking, and floor tiles. Production of PCBs peaked in the early 1970s and was banned in the United States after 1979. Learn more by clicking here.
    (external link to...
  • Hydrocarbons (contain hydrogen and carbon atoms)
    Hydrocarbons are a class of chemicals that contain only hydrogen and carbon atoms. Some have hydrogen with rings of carbon atoms, called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or PAHs. Hydrocarbons with additives, such as gasoline, also are included. Typical substances include automotive gasoline, benzene, butadiene, fuel oils, jet fuels, and various PAHs. PAHs include naphthylene and over 100 different substances formed during the incomplete burning of coal, oil and gas, garbage, or other organic substances like tobacco or charbroiled meat. PAHs are found in coal tar, crude oil, creosote, and roofing tar, but a few are used in medicines or to make dyes, plastics, and pesticides. Learn more by clicking here
    (external link to...
  • Inorganic substances
    Inorganic substances are a group of chemicals that contain no carbon. Examples include ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, all metals, and most elements (such as calcium). Learn more by clicking here.
    (external link to...
  • Metals/Elements (the simplest forms of matter)
    Elements are a class of chemicals that are the simplest forms of matter; those elements in nature range from hydrogen to uranium. Metals (such as aluminum and silver) are elements that tend to be malleable (can be shaped or formed by hammering or pressure without breaking) and ductile (can be drawn into wires). Learn more by clicking here.
    (external link to...
  • Nitrosamines/ethers/alcohols
    Nitrosamines are a group of organic chemicals formed by the interaction of nitrites with amines or amides inside the body; they have been found to cause cancer in animals. Ethers contain hydrocarbon groups connected by an oxygen atom. They are volatile and highly flammable organic compounds, and ; some have been used as anesthetics. Alcohols are organic compounds that contain a hydroxyl (OH) group, such as in isopropyl alcohol or ethyl alcohol (in alcoholic beverages). Learn more by clicking here.
    (external link to...
  • Organophosphates and carbamates
    Organophosphates are organic compounds that contain phosphorus, while carbamates are salts or esters of carbamic acid. In different ways, organophosphates and carbamates tend to cause the nervous system to stop working properly. Some are used in fertilizers or as pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, fire retardants, or nerve agents. Learn more by clicking here.
    (external link to...
  • Pesticides (chemicals used for killing pests, such as rodents, insects, or plants)
    Pesticides are a class of chemicals designed to kill pests (rodents, insects, or plants) that may affect agricultural crops or carry diseases like malaria and typhus. Learn more by clicking here.
    (external link to...
  • Phenols/phenoxy acids
    Phenols are a group of aromatic chemicals containing one phenyl ring with an attached hydroxyl group. They are colorless-to-white solids with a sickly sweet odor. Phenols are used to make plastics and as a disinfectant in both household cleaning products and consumer products, such as mouthwashes. Some are used as fungicides, herbicides, insecticides, or pesticides. Learn more by clicking here.
    (external link to...
  • Phthalates
    Phthalates are a group of aromatic chemicals containing a phenyl ring with two attached and extended acetate groups. They are typically colorless liquids used to make plastics more flexible and resilient, and are often referred to as plasticizers. Because they are not a part of the chain of chemicals (polymers) that makes up plastics, they can be released fairly easily from these products. These plastics are found in products such as toothbrushes, automobile parts, tools, toys, and food packaging. Some are also used in cosmetics, insecticides, and aspirin. Learn more by clicking here.
    (external link to...
  • Radionuclides (radioactive materials)
    Radionuclides (or radioactive materials) are a class of chemicals where the nucleus of the atom is unstable. They achieve stability through changes in the nucleus (spontaneous fission, emission of alpha particles, or conversion of neutrons to protons or the reverse). This process is called radioactive decay or transformation, and often is followed by the release of ionizing radiation (beta particles, neutrons, or gamma rays). Learn more by clicking here.
    (external link to...
  • Volatile organic compounds
    VOCs are a class of chemicals that are volatile (evaporate easily) and are organic compounds (contain carbon atoms). Some common VOCs include acetone and automotive gasoline. Learn more by clicking here.
    (external link to...
  • Warfare and Terrorism Agents (used in acts of war or terror)
    Warfare or terrorism agents are a class that includes chemicals, biological substances, radioactive materials, nuclear materials, or explosives. These agents can be used in war against enemies or to frighten groups of individuals. Learn more by clicking here.
    (external link to...

    For information on other warfare and terrorism agents, please view the the CDC Chemical Agents page by clicking here. (external link to...