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Occupational Safety, Energy Labs Sign Agreement to Advance Critical Protective Technology Research

NIOSH Update:

Contact: Fred Blosser (202) 401-3749
August 21, 2002

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) today signed an agreement to further the development of new technologies for protecting emergency responders from injury and death in chemical, biological, and radiological events.

Under the memorandum of understanding, NIOSH’s National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory (NPPTL) and NETL will explore opportunities to exchange information, leverage each others’ research capabilities and facilities, and undertake collaborative activities to help assess and test new respirators and other personal protective technologies. Such advanced technologies will be essential for protecting emergency responders in terrorist events and other catastrophes.

“The terrorist attacks of last September 11 underscored the need for new approaches to help keep emergency responders safe from unforeseen and catastrophic hazards,” said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D. “Today’s agreement will help NIOSH and NETL build on proven strengths and leverage unique capabilities to meet this critical need.”

NETL Director Rita A. Bajura stated, “This is an excellent example of organizations working together to address pressing national issues related to emergency preparedness. Our agencies’ complementary skills and experiences can produce both evolutionary and revolutionary advances in personal protective technologies.”

NIOSH, which is part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), conducts research and makes recommendations for preventing job-related injuries, illnesses, and deaths. NIOSH’s NPPTL in Pittsburgh, Pa., incorporates NIOSH’s long-established program of respirator research and certification for traditional workplace uses. It also has assumed new duties for certifying respirators and advancing research on personal protective equipment for use by emergency responders against chemical, biological, and radiological agents. NPPTL was established in 2001.

NETL has extensive laboratory experience in areas such as hot gas-stream cleanup technology, computational fluid dynamics, critical expertise in the environmental effects of mining, and significant hazardous waste environmental remediation experience. It also develops and tests experimental filter materials, sorbents, fuel cells, micro-turbines, cutting-edge instrumentation, and a variety of sensors and monitoring equipment. Other core competencies include strong administrative skills in project management and innovative contracting, a proven capability to work cooperatively with the private sector, and extensive capabilities in providing technology management services. NETL also has one of its facilities located in Pittsburgh.

Areas in which the memorandum of understanding may stimulate NIOSH and NETL collaboration include:

• Use of computer modeling systems to help predict and prevent equipment failures in the field.

• Development of new instrumentation and sensors to provide emergency responders with real-time monitoring of toxic air contaminants at catastrophe sites.

• Creation of virtual reality systems and computer models to evaluate new sensor, detector, and respirator technologies; simulations and models could reduce the cost of designing and developing new respirator masks, filters, and other devices.

• Developing, certifying, and recommending personal protective equipment to be used by workers at DOE remediation sites.