Skip to content

ERPG Definitions and Background Information


The Emergency Response Planning Guideline (ERPG) values are intended to provide estimates of concentration ranges where one reasonably might anticipate observing adverse effects as described in the definitions for ERPG-1, ERPG-2, and ERPG-3 as a consequence of exposure to the specific substance.

  • The ERPG-1 is the maximum airborne concentration below which it is believed that nearly all individuals could be exposed for up to 1 hr without experiencing other than mild transient adverse health effects or perceiving a clearly defined, objectionable odor.
  • The ERPG-2 is the maximum airborne concentration below which it is believed that nearly all individuals could be exposed for up to 1 hr without experiencing or developing irreversible or other serious health effects or symptoms which could impair an individual's ability to take protective action.
  • The ERPG-3 is the maximum airborne concentration below which it is believed that nearly all individuals could be exposed for up to 1 hour without experiencing or developing life-threatening health effects.

Background Information

It is recognized by the committee (and should be remembered by all who make use of these values) that human responses do not occur at precise exposure levels but can extend over a wide range of concentrations. The values derived for ERPGs should not be expected to protect everyone but should be applicable to most individuals in the general population.

In all populations there are hypersensitive individuals who will show adverse responses at exposure concentrations far below levels where most individuals normally would respond.

Furthermore, since these values have been derived as planning and emergency response guidelines, not exposure guidelines, they do not contain the safety factors normally incorporated into exposure guidelines. Instead, they are estimates, by the committee, of the thresholds above which there would be unacceptable likelihood of observing the defined effects.

The estimates are based on the available data that are summarized in the documentation. In some cases where the data are limited, the uncertainty of these estimates is large. Users of the ERPG values are encouraged strongly to review carefully the documentation before applying these values.

In developing these ERPGs, human experience has been emphasized to the extent data are available. Since this type of information, however, is rarely available, and when available is only for low level exposures, animal exposure data most frequently forms the basis for these values.

The most pertinent information is derived from acute inhalation toxicity studies that have included clinical observations and histopathology. The focus is on the highest levels not showing the effects described by the definitions of the ERPG levels.

Next, data from repeat inhalation exposure studies with clinical observations and histopathology are considered. Following these in importance are the basic, typically acute studies where mortality is the major focus.

When inhalation toxicity data are either unavailable or limited, data from studies involving other routes of exposure will be considered. More value is given to the more rigorously conducted studies, and data from short-term studies are considered to be more useful in estimating possible effects from a single 1-hour exposure.

Finally, if mechanistic or dose-response data are available, these are applied, on a case-by-case basis, as appears appropriate.

It is recognized that there is a range of times that one might consider for these guidelines; however, it was the committee's decision to focus its efforts on only one time period. This decision was based on the availability to toxicology information and a reasonable estimate for an exposure scenario.

Users who may choose to extrapolate these values to other time periods are cautioned to review the documentation fully since such extrapolations tend to hold only over very limited time frames, if at all.

For information on ERPG values for specific chemicals visit the ERPG levels Web page that is maintained by the AIHA Emergency Response Planning Committee.