The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has released a suggested strategy for research into occupational exposure relating to asbestos.

Although the link between asbestos fibers and pulmonary diseases – including lung cancer – is well established, a great deal of uncertainty remains regarding the health risks associated with asbestos and asbestos-like particles.

“The NIOSH roadmap outlines a strategic framework for designing, conducting, and applying the research that will best serve the need to address persistent scientific uncertainties about occupational health and elongate mineral particles,” said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D. “We look forward to working with our partners to advance this research, building on today’s state-of-the-art scientific tools and methodologies.”

Priority areas for research, as proposed by the roadmap, include:
  • Developing a broader understanding of the factors that determine the toxicity of asbestos fibers and other elongate mineral particles.
  • Developing information and knowledge on occupational exposures to asbestos fibers and other elongate mineral particles, and related health outcomes.
  • Development of improved sampling and analytical methods for asbestos fibers and other elongate mineral particles.
  • Applying research outcomes to improve public policy.
NIOSH is the federal agency that conducts research and makes recommendations for preventing work-related injury, illness, and death. NIOSH has a longstanding program of research and health surveillance to prevent asbestos-related disease, and its scientific findings and recommendations have contributed significantly to national policies for eliminating or minimizing harmful exposures.

The new NIOSH document incorporates extensive public comment and scientific peer review, including review by an independent committee of the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council. The document does not set any new NIOSH policy regarding asbestos fibers and other elongate mineral particles.

The strategy is contained in “Current Intelligence Bulletin: Asbestos Fibers and Other Elongate Mineral Particles: State of the Science and Roadmap for Research,” which is available online at www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2011-159/.