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NIOSH Issues “Roadmap” Document Suggesting Asbestos Research Strategy


March 23, 2011
NIOSH Update:

Contact: Fred Blosser, (202) 245-0645

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) announces the availability of “Current Intelligence Bulletin: Asbestos Fibers and Other Elongate Mineral Particles: State of the Science and Roadmap for Research.” The document contains NIOSH’s recommended framework for a national research strategy to address current scientific uncertainties about occupational exposure and toxicity issues relating to asbestos fibers and other elongate mineral particles.

The Current Intelligence Bulletin is available online at

It is well documented that asbestos fibers can cause lung cancer and other types of serious lung disease in workers when inhaled. Since the passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act in 1970, considerable progress has been made in preventing harmful exposures and protecting workers from risks of illness. However, many scientific uncertainties remain as to the health risks associated with exposure to other elongate mineral particles, including those with mineralogical compositions identical or similar to the asbestos minerals and those that have already been documented to cause asbestos-like disease, as well as the physical and chemical characteristics that determine toxicity.

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 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. Further information is available at