The draft document addresses current scientific questions about occupational exposure and toxicity issues relating to asbestos and other elongate mineral particles. It suggests new avenues of research to engage those questions, to reduce scientific uncertainties in those areas, and to provide a sound scientific foundation for future policy development. Public comments are invited until April 16, 2010.
The new Version 4 of the draft document reflects substantial public comment and scientific peer review of previous drafts. Specifically, the new draft incorporates comments from an extensive peer review by an independent committee of the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council. The committee’s report was released in October 2009 and is available at www.iom.edu/Reports/2009/NIOSH-Research-Roadmap-Asbestos.aspx.
“Asbestos has been a highly visible issue in public health for over three decades and abundant information is in the scientific literature,” the draft document notes. “However, in part because of the complexity in the mineralogy, the scientific literature has various inconsistencies and inconclusive evidence which have led to uncertainties in identifying and applying the term asbestos for health and regulatory purposes.”
The draft document was developed by a working group of NIOSH scientists and engineers with professional experience in different disciplines that are essential for identifying, understanding, and addressing occupational health concerns related to asbestos and other elongate mineral particles.
“The draft NIOSH roadmap reflects the Institute’s commitment to engaging complex scientific questions that have profound implications for occupational health, and bringing our best scientific tools to bear. It also reflects our commitment to making our efforts publicly transparent, and closely involving our stakeholders,” said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D. “Scientific transparency and partnership are vital for progress on these issues that continue to demand our attention in the 21st Century.”
Changes in the new draft reflecting comments from the independent IOM/NRC scientific committee include these:
- An expanded glossary of terms, with special emphasis on defining mineralogical terms using accepted mineralogical references.
- Reorganization of the document to help clarify its purpose of establishing a framework for scientific research based on existing gaps in knowledge.
- Emphasizing the importance of bringing together stakeholders to identify specific research projects and to assist in developing priorities for research.