The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has released a "full schedule of programs, projects and products" for 2011, although Director John Howard, M.D., admits that tighter budgetary constraints will be a challenge.

Topping NIOSH's list of priorities is the release of the Asbestos Roadmap, early in the year. Actually titled, Asbestos and Other Elongated Mineral Particle: State of the Science and Roadmap for Research, the document will recommend what Howard calls a "blueprint of research."

"We have worked closely and diligently with our stakeholders to shepherd this document through extensive review, including rigorous scientific review and comment from the National Academies," he said in a recent NIOSH eNews release. "The Asbestos Roadmap will provide an agenda for needed research to fill lingering gaps in scientific knowledge about the identification and application of the term 'asbestos' for health and regulatory purposes. This progress is vital for resolving uncertainties that continue to cloud scientific and policy debates."

More information on the roadmap is available at www.cdc.gov/niosh/review/public/099/.

While asbestos is a legacy concern from twentieth century industrial processes, another of NIOSH's agenda items, nanotechnology research, addresses twenty-first century industrial needs.

Howard said that NIOSH will gather and review public comments on the draft current intelligence bulletin on carbon nanotubes and nanofibers issued last month: www.cdc.gov/niosh /docket/review/docket161A/.

Another current intelligence bulletin, on titanium dioxide, TiO2, is expected to generate considerable stakeholder interest. Howard said of the bulletin, which was issued in its final form last month, "It is the first scientific document to recommend respective occupational exposure limits for both fine and ultrafine forms of a material. As such, it represents an important pioneering document in national efforts to address the occupational health implications of nano-scale materials." That bulletin may be viewed at: www.cdc.gov/niosh/review/public/TIo2/default.html.

Posting a draft criteria document on the butter flavorings diacetyl and 2,3-pentadione for public comment, as well as continuing safety and health research in the energy industries -- with special attention given to expanding partnerships in oil and gas extraction, uranium mining, and "green" energy production -- are also part of the 2011 NIOSH agenda.

Another item is the creation of a NIOSH center for motor vehicle safety for research on preventing work-related injuries and deaths from highway crashes and other motor vehicle incidents. "Year after year, motor vehicle incidents continue to rank as the leading cause of death on the job across multiple industries," says Howard. "From existing partnerships with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and others, we know that efforts to stem this terrible toll will benefit greatly from a systematic, centralized program of research within NIOSH.

Howard admits that progress NIOSH will be able to make in its core research areas will depend on the resources available to the institute -- resources that will be negatively affected by federal budget constraints.

For more information on NIOSH, go to www.cdc.gov/niosh/.