Skip to main content


Special Collections Online at UT

Environmental Mutagen Society Records

Identifier: MS-[EMS]

  • Staff Only

The collection spans from 1950 to 2009, with the bulk of materials ranging from 1969 to 2002. The collection is arranged chronologically.

The EMS records are arranged in the following series:

Series I: 1930s-1950s -- This series contains journal articles written by EMS members. It also includes correspondence between Hermann J. Muller and Joshua Lederberg prior to the society's founding, indicating a need for a society for those who research chemical mutagens.

Series II: 1960s -- This series consists of the society's founding materials, including a questionnaire used to poll potential members, meeting minutes, articles of incorporation and bylaws, the first newsletter, and other materials. It also includes journal articles written by EMS members and materials from Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Biology Division, where many EMS members worked.

Series III: 1970s -- This series contains administrative materials for running EMS, including correspondence, committee materials, and membership materials. It also contains annual meeting materials such as meeting minutes, programs and photographs. The series includes publications like newsletters, journal articles written by EMS members, news articles about EMS members, and materials related to the collaboration with journals such as Mutation Research. The series also consists of materials related to the Environmental Mutagen Information Center; other organizations' conferences, research committees, workshops and symposia; the founding of international sister organizations; and ORNL's Biology Division.

Series IV: 1980s -- This series consists of administrative materials related to running EMS, including correspondence, committee materials, and financial documents. It includes materials regarding the society's annual meeting, such as meeting minutes, programs and photographs. It also contains materials related to EMIC, sister international organizations, and other organizations' conferences, research committees, workshops and symposia. The series includes newsletters, journal articles written by EMS members, news articles about EMS members, materials related to EMS's journal, and other publications.

Series V: 1990s -- This series contains administrative documents for running the society, including correspondence, committee materials, membership materials and financial documents. It also holds materials from annual meetings, such as meeting minutes, programs and photographs. The series includes materials from sister regional, national and international organizations, and other organizations' conferences, research task forces, workshops and symposia. It also consists of publications such as newsletters, the society's journal, journal articles written by EMS members, news articles about EMS members, and other publications. The series also contains ORNL's Health Sciences Research Division research materials from EMS members.

Series VI: 2000s and undated The 2000s materials contain administrative documents for running EMS, including correspondence, committee materials, and membership materials. It also includes annual meeting materials such as meeting minutes, photographs and other papers. It also contains newsletters, collages for newsletters, and the EMS journal. The undated materials contain items that do not have a clear indicator as to when they were created. It includes administrative documents, annual meeting papers, photographs, newsletter materials, publications, and materials from EMIC, international sister organizations and other organizations' workshops.


  • 1930-2009

Conditions Governing Access

Collections are stored offsite and must be requested in advance. See for detailed information. Collections must be requested through a registered Special Collections research account.

Conditions Governing Use

The UT Libraries claims only physical ownership of most material in the collections. Persons wishing to broadcast or publish this material must assume all responsibility for identifying and satisfying any claimants on for detailed information. Collections must be requested through a registered Special Collections research account.


20.5 Linear Feet (21 boxes)


The collection spans from 1950 to 2009, with the bulk of materials ranging from 1969 to 2002. The collection is arranged chronologically.

The Environmental Mutagen Society Records holds the society's administrative documents and correspondence between its members. It also includes publications, research materials, and other documents relating to the society, its sister regional, national and international organizations, and the Environmental Mutagen Information Center. Materials from Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Biology Division, Health Sciences Research Division, and Life Sciences Division are also included in the records.

Biographical/Historical Note

The Environmental Mutagen Society maintains its original charge of “communicating and sharing research on chemical mutagens’ threat to humanity and the environment.” Though current researchers continue to evaluate chemicals’ mutagenicity, improvements in scientific research during the society’s more than forty year history have influenced changes in the society’s scope and goals. During the past three decades, members’ research interests shifted from inheritable mutation-causing agents in the environment, to DNA damage and repair; potential diseases caused by mutagens and carcinogens; and health and environmental risk assessment related to such damage. Currently, the EMS and government agencies maintain a relationship in educating and notifying the public about issues regarding environmental mutagenesis and related health risks. The society has also grown to advise governmental regulatory bodies on guidelines and policies that control exposure to environmental mutagens, beginning with consultation on the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 and involvement in the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare’s Subcommittee on Environmental Mutagens (SEM) in the 1970s. EMS supports academic and industrial research efforts in the environmental mutagen scientific community by providing outlets for training and sharing research, such as workshops, symposia and conferences. In 2000, EMS became a member of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, which further aided the EMS in its public outreach goals. The collection has a few main categories; The founding history, publications, international outreach, and Environmental Mutagen Information Center(EMIC).

The Founding

In the summer of 1968, an ad-hoc committee, led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory Biology Division’s first director Alexander Hollaender, met in Washington, D.C. to discuss concerns over chemicals’ long-term effects on humans and the environment. The committee distributed a questionnaire to 100 biologists and medical professionals and calculated its results in late 1968. The committee discovered that the participants expressed a need to form a society related to their chemical mutagen research. On January 8, 1969, the committee convened at the Union Carbide offices in New York and unanimously agreed to form the Environmental Mutagen Society (EMS) based on the questionnaire’s results. During the meeting, the founding members elected Hollaender as its first president, Matthew Meselson as president-elect, Samuel S. Epstein as secretary, Marvin S. Legator as treasurer, and the following as councilors: Frederick J. de Serres, Heinrich V. Malling, Ernst Freese, Bruce N. Ames and James Crow. The first council expanded to include Ernest Chu, John Drake, Charles Edington, Leo Friedman, Kurt Hirschhorn, Harold Kalter, C.J. Kensler, James Neel, Jack Schubert and Phillipe Shubik. The council met February 8, 1969 in Washington, D.C., and discussed future business, including creating a newsletter, publishing a monograph on chemical mutagenicity testing methods, and forming a register of chemicals tested for mutagenicity. Epstein drafted the constitution, and members wrote the bylaws before the society gained incorporation and non-profit status in Washington, D.C. on May 12, 1969. In June 1969, the society published and distributed its first newsletter. The council met again on August 4, 1969 in Washington, D.C. to discuss gaining tax exemption status, ratifying the bylaws, publishing the second newsletter, and establishing the tested chemicals register called the Environmental Mutagen Information Center (EMIC). The councilors also discussed sponsoring conferences or roundtable discussions; appointing William L. Russell, Douglas H.K. Lee and Leslie E. Orgel to the council; and planning the first annual meeting’s program. The EMS held its first annual meeting March 22-25, 1970 in Washington, D.C., with subsequent meetings occurring in different locations across the United States and Canada for more than forty years.


The society’s major publication is its journal, Environmental and Molecular Mutagenesis. Its origins can be traced to the society’s founding, when it began as the society’s newsletter in June 1969. In 1971, the council decided to change the newsletter to a publication closer to a journal. Publishing company Elsevier offered to publish a supplement to Mutation Research with the society’s name and sponsorship. With a contract signed, the supplement’s first issue was published and distributed in 1973. Frederick J. de Serres served as editor of the supplement under Mutation Research editor-in-chief Frederik “Frits” H. Sobels, a radiation genetics and chemical mutagenesis professor in the Netherlands and fellow EMS member. However, the arrangement proved to be short term, and the two parties ended the contract. The society gathered an ad-hoc committee to examine the feasibility of publishing its own journal and to locate a publisher. The EMS signed a contract with publisher Alan Liss, Inc., established an editorial board and appointed Seymour Abrahamson as the journal’s first editor-in-chief in 1978. The first issue of Environmental Mutagenesis was published and distributed in 1979. By 1981, the journal increased its issues from four to six per volume, and the journal published its first supplement issue in 1983. Society members voted to change the journal’s name to Environmental and Molecular Mutagenesis in 1986, to be effective for the next volume in 1987. The journal also increased from six to its current eight issues per volume in 1986, with additional special issues and supplements. John Wiley and Sons, Inc. bought Alan Liss, Inc. in 1989 and became Wiley-Liss in 1990. This did not affect the relationship between the society and the publisher. Beginning in the late 1990s, Wiley, Inc. hosted the electronic version of EMM on its Web site. The journal also arranged an electronic submission function with the publisher for papers and reviews.

The EMS has published several other notable publications throughout its history. The society’s proposed monograph on chemical mutagenesis testing methods was published as a two volume book series, Chemical Mutagens: Principles and Methods for Their Detection, in 1971. The society’s first position paper, Committee 17’s “Environmental Mutagenic Hazards,” published in Science in February 1975. EMS’s administrative office reestablished the society newsletter for content that would not otherwise appear in the journal in 1975, and it published and distributed the first issue in 1976. The biannually published newsletter currently contains announcements, future meeting information, election ballots and bylaw changes. The society created and mailed a membership directory in late 1978, with intermittent distribution in the 1980s. It was regularly published every two years in the 1990s under the direction of membership director Elizabeth S. Von Halle, until the membership roster became available online on the EMS Web site.

International Outreach

Due to European interest in the society, Hollaender collaborated with Frits Sobels and other European scientists to form the European Environmental Mutagen Society on July 5, 1970 in Munich, Germany. Hollaender also aided interested Japanese members in forming their own EMS branch in 1972. The American, European and Japanese Environmental Mutagen Societies came together to form the International Association of the Environmental Mutagen Societies (IAEMS), which held its first International Conference on Environmental Mutagens (ICEM) in 1973 in Asilomar, California, with subsequent conferences held every five years in different international locations. Hundreds of other environmental mutagenesis, carcinogenesis and genetic toxicology societies formed around the world and became affiliated with the IAEMS, including the Indian EMS, the UKEMS, the Latin American Association of Environmental Mutagenesis, Carcinogenesis and Teratogenesis, and the Pan-African Environmental Society.

American, European and Japanese EMS members were also instrumental in forming the International Commission for Protection against Environmental Mutagens and Carcinogens (ICPEMC). Its first planning meeting was held in January 1977 at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. The commission focused on reports regarding risk elimination and guidelines for government regulation on chemical mutagen exposure. These meetings were held around the world. After publishing two decades worth of reports, the commission ceased to function in the late 1990s due to lack of funding (From the ICPEMC Background Web site).

The Alexander Hollaender Committee, established in the 1980s to manage the Hollaender Fund for International Programs, offers instruction and funding to foreign scientists, especially in countries that have difficulty providing these resources. In the spirit of Hollaender’s symposia and training courses in the 1960s that continued in Latin America and South Asia until his death in 1986, the committee established the Alexander Hollaender International Courses program. The first international training courses were held in Mexico City, Mexico in 1993 and are held nearly every year in different international locations (From “Alexander Hollaender: In Memoriam”). In addition, Alexander Hollaender Committee chairperson William Au and Egyptian scientist Wagida Anwar planned an international conference that was to be held in less developed countries yet are akin to the IAEMS’s ICEMs. The first International Conference on Environmental Mutagens in Human Populations was held in Cairo, Egypt in January 1992. The conference inspired the formation of the Pan-African EMS later that year. Subsequent conferences are held internationally every three years.


The EMS council formed a subcommittee to establish the register of chemicals tested for mutagenicity during the February council meeting in 1969. Oak Ridge National Laboratories Biology Division scientist Heinrich V. Malling, a member of the subcommittee, and John S. Wassom, his laboratory technician, found that the best way to collect, maintain, store and access the overflowing literature on chemical mutagens was to digitize the information. Thus, when the Environmental Mutagen Information Center (EMIC) began its operations at ORNL in November 1969, it became the first specialized, free language electronic information center in the country, and the first environmental mutagenesis database. The society appointed Wassom as EMIC’s director, a position he held during the center’s entire existence. Wassom and Sobels collaborated to publish the Mutation Research supplement Reviews in Genetic Toxicology by coordinating articles and exchanging information found in the EMIC database. EMIC implemented the Environmental Toxicology Information Center, and provided EMIC services through TOXLINE and MEDLINE, in 1976. Longtime EMIC employee Elizabeth S. Von Halle’s correspondence files in the EMS collection represent the information request transactions between researchers and EMIC staff. Von Halle’s correspondence files also represent her time as EMS’s membership director from 1991 to 1999, after her retirement from ORNL and EMIC.

The Environmental Protection Agency absorbed EMIC into its National Toxicology Program in the early 1980s. The center, along with EMS members, assisted the EPA with its Gene-Tox database development; the database contained more than 3,000 chemicals’ genetic test results (From “EMIC: A Centralized Source of Chemical Mutagenesis Information”). EMIC served as the central mailing address, information clearing center and archive for EMS beginning in 1987.

Throughout the center’s existence, government agencies sponsored its activities, including the National Institutes of Health, the National Cancer Institute, the National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences, the Food and Drug Administration, and the National Science Foundation. However, EMIC experienced financial trouble in the 1990s, and it had a shaky relationship with NIEHS, its only major financial sponsor by 1998. By December 1999, the center’s collaborative partners, the EPA, NIEHS and the National Library of Medicine at NIH, stopped compiling information. The Division of Specialized Information Services at NLM currently maintains the TOXLINE EMIC collection database on TOXNET. The database contains more than 75,000 citations from 1950 to 1991.

Additional Sources

Sobels, Frits. 1985. "The International Association of Environmental Mutagen Societies (IAEMS)." Teratogenesis, Carcinogenesis and Mutagenesis 5: 441-444. Accessed December 3, 2010 from

Shelby, Michael D. 1978. "EMIC: A Centralized Source of Chemical Mutagenesis Information." Environmental Health Perspectives 27: 21-25. Accessed November 5, 2010 from

"ICPEMC Background." Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Accessed March 11, 2011 from

Von Borstel, R.C. 1987. "Alexander Hollaender, In Memoriam." Mutagenesis 2(2): 149-150. Accessed February 23, 2011 from


The collection consists of 23 boxes divided into series by decade, from the 1930s to the 2000s. The collection is arranged as such:

Missing Title

  1. Series I: 1930s-1950s -- Box 1
  2. Series II: 1960s -- Box 1
  3. Series III: 1970s -- Boxes 1-5
  4. Series IV: 1980s -- Boxes 5-11
  5. Series V: 1990s -- Boxes 12-20
  6. Series VI: 2000s and Undated -- Boxes 20-23

Acquisition Note

The Environmental Mutagen Society donated its records to Special Collections.

Repository Details

Part of the Betsey B. Creekmore Special Collections and University Archives, University of Tennessee, Knoxville Repository

University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Knoxville TN 37996 USA