More than 80,000 chemicals are registered for use in the United States. Each year, an estimated 2,000 new ones are introduced for use in such everyday items as foods, personal care products, prescription drugs, household cleaners, and lawn care products. We do not know the effects of many of these chemicals on our health, yet we may be exposed to them while manufacturing, distributing, using, and disposing of them or when they become pollutants in our air, water, or soil. Relatively few chemicals are thought to pose a significant risk to human health. However, safeguarding public health depends on identifying both what the effects of these chemicals are and at what levels of exposure they may become hazardous to humans—that is, understanding their toxicology.
NTP is an interagency program whose mission is to evaluate agents of public health concern by developing and applying tools of modern toxicology and molecular biology. The program maintains an objective, science-based approach in dealing with critical issues in toxicology and is committed to using the best science available to prioritize, design, conduct, and interpret its studies. To that end, NTP is continually evolving to remain at the cutting edge of scientific research and to develop and apply new technologies.
NTP was established in 1978 by Joseph A. Califano, Jr., Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare (today known as the Department of Health and Human Services). The program was created as a cooperative effort to:
The need for a program like NTP arose because of increasing scientific, regulatory, and Congressional concerns about the human health effects of chemical agents in our environment. Many human diseases were thought to be directly or indirectly related to chemical exposures; therefore, it was thought that decreasing or eliminating human exposures to those chemicals would help prevent some human disease and disability. Secretary Richard S. Schwiker granted permanent status to NTP in October 1981.