The American Industrial Hygiene Association is pushing President Bush to fill the position for director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), which has remained vacant since November 1, 2000.

"Strong, effective and competent leadership should be established at NIOSH as expeditiously as possible," AIHA President Henry Lick wrote in a letter to President Bush.

Lick explained that NIOSH, which functions under the auspices of the Centers for Disease Control, is the only federal agency responsible for conducting research and making recommendations for the prevention of work-related disease and injury. It also investigates potentially hazardous working conditions; makes recommendations and disseminates information on preventing workplace disease, injury and disability; and provides training to occupational health and safety professionals.

NIOSH also played a key role in assessing worker health problems and injuries resulting from the World Trade Center, Pentagon attacks and anthrax outbreaks.

"The NIOSH director position has been left vacant for far too long - leaving long-term administrative, policy and program decisions hanging in the balance and an agency, its employees and other affected parties in a state of limbo," said Lick.

"AIHA asks that you urge Health and Human Services Secretary Thompson to appoint a well-qualified individual to the position of NIOSH director sooner, rather than later."

Kathleen M. Rest, Ph.D., M.P.A., has been serving as acting director of NIOSH.