NIOSH Asbestos Roadmap

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recently released an Asbestos Research Roadmap outlining the state of scientific findings and plans for future research. NIOSH is a faction of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that protects workers from injury and illness. The last publication NIOSH released concerning this issue was in 1990, and is now extremely outdated. The release of this Roadmap confirms that asbestos exposure remains to be a major risk to public health, especially those in certain occupations. Lung cancer lawyers urge those who may be at risk for occupational asbestos exposure to become familiar with this roadmap, a link to which can be found here.

NIOSH found this document necessary for many reasons. First, because of the wide discrepancy in definitions of asbestos between scientific disciplines. This inconsistency makes regulating asbestos release and protecting workers increasingly difficult. Second, a document of this sort will aid in developing congruent framework for future scientific research as well as public policy development. Lastly, though there are a significant number of studies on this subject, conclusions need to be solidified concerning the exposure-response relationship between contact with asbestos and the development of related diseases.

This project aims to provide a broader and clearer understanding of the important determinants of toxicity for asbestos and other elongate mineral particles (EMPs). NIOSH recognizes that results from such research may impact environmental as well as occupational health policies and practices. Many of the issues that are important in the workplace are also important to communities and to the general population.

Developing information and knowledge on occupational exposures to various EMPs and potential health outcomes will involve: (1) collecting and analyzing available occupational exposure information to ascertain the characteristics and extent of exposure to various types of EMPs; (2) collecting and analyzing available information on health outcomes associated with exposures to various types of EMPs; (3) conducting epidemiological studies of workers exposed to various types of EMPs to better define the association between exposure and health effects; and (4) developing and validating methods for screening, diagnosis, and secondary prevention for diseases caused by exposure to asbestos fibers and other EMPs.

Achievement of the research goals framed in the Roadmap will require a significant investment of time, scientific talent, and resources by NIOSH and others. This investment, however, can result in a sound scientific basis for better occupational health protection policies for asbestos fibers and other EMPs.

The nature of occupational exposures to asbestos has changed over the last several decades. Once dominated by chronic exposures in asbestos textile mills, friction product manufacturing, cement pipe fabrication, and insulation manufacture and installation, current occupational exposures to asbestos in the United States primarily occur during maintenance activities or remediation of buildings containing asbestos. OSHA has estimated that 1.3 million workers in general industry continue to be exposed to asbestos; NIOSH has estimated that nearly 45,000 mine workers may be exposed.

These current occupational exposure scenarios frequently involve short-term, intermittent exposures, and proportionately fewer long fibers than workers were exposed to in the past. The generally lower current exposures give added significance to the question of whether or not there is an asbestos exposure threshold below which workers would incur no risk of adverse health outcomes. The large number of potentially exposed workers and these changed exposure scenarios also give rise to the need to better understand whether appropriate protection is provided by the current occupational exposure recommendations and regulations.

Section 4 of this Roadmap broadly outlines a proposed structure for development and oversight of a comprehensive, interdisciplinary research program. Key to this approach will be the active involvement of stakeholders representing parties with differing views, expert study groups specifying and guiding various components of the research program, and a multidisciplinary group providing careful ongoing review and oversight to ensure relevance, coordination, and impact of the overall research program. NIOSH does not intend this (or any other) section of the Roadmap to be prescriptive, so detailed research aims, specific research priorities, and funding considerations have intentionally not been specified. Rather, it is expected that these more detailed aspects of the program will be most effectively developed with collaborative input from scientists, policy experts, and managers from various agencies, as well as from other interested stakeholders.

Mesothelioma attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm champion the efforts of NIOSH and their commitment to protecting public health. If you developed a disease from occupational exposure to asbestos, you are entitled to medical compensation. Contact our asbestos law firm today for a free legal consultation.