OEHHA Program Descriptions
The mission of the individual sections within OEHHA
The Executive Office provides the direction and leadership necessary to plan, develop and administer programs and activities in OEHHA. Other functions provided by the executive office include legal support to various programs, legislative analysis and liaison, communication and public information, and administrative functions relating to OEHHA’s Proposition 65 activities.
The Administrative Services Division carries out the various administrative tasks necessary to support the Office, including contracts and business services, human resources, fiscal services, and information technology.
The Air, Community, and Environmental Research Branch (ACERB) has wide-ranging responsibilities that include assessing the health effects of criteria air pollutants and toxic air contaminants; conducting epidemiological studies of the health effects from air pollution; conducting innovative research of public-health issues relating to climate change and identifying the impacts of climate change in California; identifying California communities with the highest burdens and vulnerabilities to pollution; and assisting state and local agencies in the review of hazards and ecological risks posed by contaminated sites.
Specific Program Activities within ACERB
Air Toxics “Hot Spots” Program
- Developing and updating guidance on the preparation of health risk assessments for major industrial facilities.
- Developing health guidance values for contaminants found in air. These include unit risk factors for carcinogens and Reference Exposure Levels (RELs) for non-carcinogens.
- Providing assistance on health-related air toxics issues to the Air Resources Board, air quality management/pollution control districts, local health officers, and environmental health officers.
Children’s Environmental Health Protection
- Advancing health risk assessment methods focused on infants and children.
- Implementation for CalEPA’s Children’s Environmental Health Program, including organizing annual symposia on the health effects of environmental pollution on children, outreach to medical professionals on children’s environmental health, consultation with other CalEPA boards and departments, and local agencies on children’s environmental health.
- Assessment of the adverse impacts of air pollution on children’s health.
- Conducting epidemiological studies on mortality and morbidity of heat exposure in California.
- Developing environmental indicators that track climate change and its impacts on California.
Criteria Air Pollutants
- Developing health-based recommendations for Ambient Air Quality Standards for criteria air pollutants.
- Conducting epidemiological studies on the health effects from exposure in the general population to criteria air pollutants.
Contaminated Site Risk Assessment
- Providing consultation services to California’s Regional Water Quality Control Boards and local governmental entities on health risks from exposure to hazardous materials at contaminated sites undergoing cleanup.
- Developing soil and soil-gas values for screening assessments at contaminated sites.
- Maintenance of a searchable online database of toxicity values developed or adopted by OEHHA.
- Development, updating, and use of California Communities Environmental Health Screening Tool (CalEnviroScreen) to identify California communities highly burdened by multiple pollution sources and vulnerable (due to poverty and other socioeconomic factors) to the adverse effects of pollution.
- Conducting research and consultation, as requested, on emerging environmental issues, such as guidance addressing exposures to cyanotoxins in surface water.
Toxic Air Contaminant Program
- Developing chemical-specific health effects assessments for air contaminants proposed as “Toxic Air Contaminants.”
The Reproductive and Cancer Hazard Assessment Branch (RCHAB) has responsibilities that include administering the scientific aspects of the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 (Proposition 65); operating the California Environmental Contaminant Biomonitoring Program (Biomonitoring California) in collaboration with the California Department of Public Health and the Department of Toxic Substances Control; and conducting exposure and health risk analyses for reproductive and developmental toxicants and carcinogens.
Specific program activities within RCHAB
Proposition 65 Scientific Activities
- Compiling and evaluating scientific information to develop hazard identification materials in support of the evaluation and listing of chemicals as causing cancer or reproductive toxicity under Proposition 65.
- Evaluating whether authoritative federal and international entities have made formal identifications of carcinogens and reproductive toxicants that meet the criteria for listing under Proposition 65.
- Developing safe harbor levels that provide guidance for when warnings are required for listed carcinogens (No Significant Risk Levels, NSRLs) and reproductive toxicants (Maximum Allowable Dose Levels, MADLs).
- Providing additional scientific support and compliance assistance for Proposition 65, including conducting exposure assessments, developing interpretive guidance, and evaluating requests for and developing Safe Use Determinations that provide guidance for when warnings are required.
- Developing information for the general public on chemicals listed under Proposition 65, including information on exposure sources and pathways, and ways to reduce exposures.
- Implementing OEHHA’s scientific activities under Biomonitoring California, which involve:
- Developing hazard evaluation documents to support selection of chemicals for biomonitoring.
- Translating complex toxicological information into plain-English materials, such as chemical fact sheets, for individual participants in biomonitoring studies.
- Developing materials to aid in interpreting biomonitoring results.
- Providing scientific and administrative support to the program’s Scientific Guidance Panel.
- Managing the Biomonitoring California website, including developing chemical-specific content and maintaining the biomonitoring results database.
Safer Alternatives Assessment Program
- Reviewing chemical hazard traits and safer alternatives to toxic chemicals to support the DTSC’s novel Safer Consumer Product’s program.
The Pesticide and Environmental Toxicology Branch (PETB) is composed of five sections performing various activities pertaining to different aspects of pesticide toxicity and epidemiology, drinking water contaminants, contaminants in fish and shellfish, and the potential health effects of synthetic turf.
Specific Program Activities within PETB
Pesticide Risk Assessment
- Performing statutorily mandated peer reviews of pesticide Risk Characterization Documents (RCDs) and Exposure Assessment Documents (EADs) prepared by the Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR).
- Evaluating pesticide toxicity data for use in DPR’s regulatory decisions.
- Preparing documents on the toxicity of and exposure to pesticides used by the invasive species program of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA).
- Communicating toxicity and exposure information of the pesticides and chemicals used in the CDFA invasive species program to the public.
Pesticide Epidemiology Program
- Tracking and maintaining records of pesticide-related illnesses.
- Preparing and updating Guidelines for Physicians who Supervise Workers Exposed to Cholinesterase-Inhibiting Pesticides, which describes the statewide program to monitor the health of pesticide handlers and the responsibilities of physicians in the Medical Supervision Program.
- Evaluating the effectiveness of the Medical Supervision Program by analyzing pesticide handlers’ blood-cholinesterase test results.
- Providing education to physicians and other health care providers on
- Working mutually with DPR to develop regulations to protect agricultural workers who handle or come into contact with pesticides.
- Providing assistance to local health officers in the event of pesticide poisonings.
Public Health Goal Program
- Performing human health risk assessments and toxicity evaluations for the development of Public Health Goals (PHGs) and notification levels for chemical contaminants in drinking water. The State Water Resources Control Board uses OEHHA’s PHGs to develop California’s regulatory drinking-water standards.
Fish, Ecotoxicology, and Ambient Water Program
- Evaluating chemical contaminants in fish and wildlife, and developing fish consumption advisories, which are published in the California Sport Fish Regulations handbook and are posted on OEHHA’s website.
- Making recommendations to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) on the closure and reopening of fisheries following oil spills in state waters.
- Working with CDPH, DFW, and the Fish and Wildlife Commission to determine fishery closures and re-openings due to marine toxins.
Studying the potential human health hazards posed by chemicals released from recycled tire material in synthetic turf and playground mats.