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Toxic Exposure Research Working Group

The Toxic Exposure Research Working Group was established under Section 501 of the Honoring our PACT Act in 2023. Under 38 USC § 501, a multi-agency federal working group called the Toxic Exposure Research Working Group will identify collaborative toxic exposure research studies and develop a 5-year strategic plan.

The members of the Toxic Exposure Research Working Group were identified through collaboration between the VA and the heads of all departments of the Federal Government and other Federal Government entities that may conduct environmental exposure research. The heads of other departments of the Federal Government identified entities that were involved in research activities regarding the health consequences of toxic exposure experienced during active military, naval, air, or space service.

The working group includes the following federal agencies:

  • Department of Commerce
    • National Institute of Standards and Technology
  • Department of Defense
    • Office of the Assistant Secretary for Defense for Health Affairs
    • Defense Health Agency
  • Department of Energy 
  • Department of Health and Human Services 
    • Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry 
    • National Institute of Environmental Health Science 
  • Department of Labor
  • Department of State 
  • Environmental Protection Agency 
  • Executive Office of the President 
    • Office of Management and Budget 
    • Office of Science and Technology Policy
  • Department of Veterans Affairs
    • Health Outcomes Military Exposures 
    • Office of Research and Development
    • War Related Illness and Injury Study Center 

Learn more about the work that our federal partners are doing within the sphere of toxic and military environmental exposures.

Department of Commerce

National Institute of Standards and Technology

The Department of Commerce, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) develops reference materials that can be used to help develop accurate methods of chemical analysis, calibrate a measurement system, and ensure the long-term integrity of measurements. NIST assists the exposure science community by providing these materials which help with comparability across long-term studies and multiple studies.

Department of Defense 

Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs

The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Defense for Health Affairs (OASD(HA)) is chartered under the DOD Directive 5136 and it is the principal staff element for all DOD health and force health protection policies, programs, and activities including the Integrated Disability Evaluation System. The OASD(HA) is responsible for the effective execution of the DOD medical mission, providing and maintaining readiness for medical services and support to members of the Military Services, including during military operations; their families; those held in the control of the Military Services; and others entitled to or eligible for DOD medical care and benefits, including those under TRICARE.

Defense Health Agency

The Defense Health Agency (DHA) is a joint, integrated Combat Support Agency that enables the Army, Navy, and Air Force medical services to provide a medically ready force and ready medical force to Combatant Commands in both peacetime and wartime. The DHA uses the principles of the Ready Reliable Care to advance high reliability practices across the Military Health System by improving our system operations, driving innovative solutions, and cultivating a culture of safety.

Department of Energy

The Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Health and Safety administers research programs and monitoring activities that support the protection and promotion of the health of DOE workers, their families, residents of neighboring communities, and people affected as a result of nuclear weapons testing, use and accidents.

Department of Health and Human Services

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry/Centers for Disease Control

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) is a federal public health agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. ATSDR protects communities from harmful health effects related to exposure to natural and man-made hazardous substances. It does this by responding to environmental health emergencies; investigating emerging environmental health emergencies; investigating emerging environmental health threats; conducting research on the health impacts of hazardous waste sites; and building capabilities of and providing actionable guidance to state and local health partners.

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) is accelerating its scientific and technological achievements to tackle a complete characterization of the exposome. This effort requires coordinating multiple disciplines including exposure science, toxicology, informatics, sensor and omics technology, and environmental epidemiology.

NIEHS supports development of sensors and other technologies to assess personal exposure in real time, with non-wearable or wearable monitors. These products measure exposure with high sensitivity and specificity, and low cost. NIEHS is particularly interested in personal sensors that measure multiple chemicals simultaneously or pair exposure assessment with psychological response.

Department of Labor

The Department of Labor (DOL) maintains the Site Exposure Matrices (SEM), which is used to organize exposure data for all facilities covered under Part E of the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA). The SEM is a repository of information on toxic substances present at DOE and Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) sites covered under Part E of EEOICPA.

This website also contains information regarding scientifically established links between toxic substances and recognized occupational illnesses. The Division of Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation’s (DEEOIC) goal in launching and maintaining this website is to display its findings and provide a forum for collecting additional information relative to the SEM website.

Environmental Protection Agency 

The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) purpose is to protect human health and the environment. EPA’s current Strategic  Plan identifies seven goals for the Agency, one of which is to “Ensure Safety of Chemicals for People and the Environment.” The Agency conducts research on exposure and toxicity of chemicals to support chemical safety assessments and decision-making, in addition to using sound science to evaluate new and existing chemicals and their risks, and to implement regulations on the manufacture and use of pesticides in the United States.

Executive Office of the President

Office of Management and Budget 

The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) assists the President in overseeing the preparation of the Federal budget and evaluates the effectiveness of agency programs, policies, and procedures, and works to make sure that agency reports, rules, testimony, and proposed legislation are consistent with the President’s Budget and with Administration policies. In addition, OMB oversees and coordinates the Administration’s regulatory, procurement, financial management, information technology, and information management policies.

Office of Science and Technology Policy

The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) works to harness the power of science, technology, and innovation to achieve America’s greatest aspirations.

OSTP’s mission includes:

  • Providing advice to the President and the Executive Office of the President on matters related to science and technology;
  • Strengthening and advancing American science and technology;
  • Working with federal departments and agencies and with Congress to create bold visions, unified strategies, clear plans, wise policies, and effective, equitable programs for science and technology;
  • Engaging with external partners, including industry, academia, philanthropic organizations, and civil society; state, local, tribal, and territorial governments; and other nations; and, ensuring equity, inclusion, and integrity in all aspects of science and technology.

VA Offices

Please see below for more information on VA offices that are conducting work related to toxic exposure research.

Health Outcomes Military Exposures 

VA's Health Outcomes Military Exposures (HOME) is responsible for this toxic exposure research website. In addition to this website, HOME maintains Congressionally-mandated military environmental exposure registries; provides surveillance and epidemiologic studies on exposures and health outcomes; monitors scientific literature and trends in Veterans Benefits Administration claims data, Veterans healthcare, morbidity and mortality outcomes; manages/supports 3 War Related Illness and Injury Study Centers (WRIISCs) including clinical care, research, and education; and manages/supports Congressionally designated centers including the Airborne Hazards and Burn Pits Center of Excellence and Toxic Embedded Fragments/Depleted Uranium Center.

Office of Research and Development 

VA's Office of Research and Development (ORD) leads the Toxic Exposure Research Working Group, which is composed of federal agency partners that are listed within this page. Additionally, ORD funds peer-reviewed research conducted by VA field investigators and supports enterprise research infrastructure to help field investigators, including Military Environmental Exposures data/biorepository; exposure assessment for individual-level analyses; Administration/Governance; Cooperative Studies Program; and Million Veteran Program.

War Related Illness and Injury Study Center

The War Related Illness and Injury Study Center (WRIISC) is a national program dedicated to Veterans’ post-deployment health concerns and unique health care needs. We develop and provide post-deployment health expertise to Veterans and their health care providers through clinical care, research, education, and risk communication. As a tertiary care center, WRIISC partners with referring providers and their health care teams to support the care of Veterans.


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