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	figure with microscope of cells, fumes

Program Description

Immune and skin-related diseases represent a diverse group of health effects that are very common in the workplace. Irritant and allergic contact dermatitis are very common, accounting for 10% to 15% of all occupational illnesses and an estimated annual cost of at least $1 billion. Likewise, allergic rhinitis, a common occupational problem, results in billions of dollars in loss of workplace productivity. Asthma is one of the more serious problems that can be caused by work-related allergy. Work-related asthma comprises 15% to 23% of new onset asthma cases in adults and can be disabling. In addition more than 13 million workers in the United States are potentially exposed to chemicals that can be absorbed through the skin that may result in adverse health impacts.

Because of the wide array of potential occupational health effects associated with this cross-sector, and to allow for a better focus of research activities, the Immune, Dermal & Infectious Disease Cross-Sector had been divided into two subgroups: Dermal and Immune/Infectious Disease. The highest incidence of immune and dermal diseases occurs in the services, agricultural, construction and manufacturing industries. However, these diseases are highly represented in all industries and the cross-sector supports all 8 NORA Sectors.

The mission of the NIOSH research program for Immune, Dermal & Infectious Diseases is to eliminate occupational injuries, illnesses, and fatalities among workers in these industries through a focused program of research and prevention. Primary efforts are focused on hazard identification since when potential hazards are recognized, work-related dermal and immune diseases can often be prevented or their effects minimized. The program strives to fulfill its mission through the following methods:

  • High Quality Research: NIOSH will continually strive for high quality research and prevention activities that will lead to reductions in occupational injuries and illnesses.
  • Practical Solutions: The NIOSH program for Immune, Dermal & Infectious Diseases is committed to the development of practical solutions to the complex problems that cause occupational injuries, illnesses, and fatalities among workers in these industries.
  • Partnerships: Collaborative efforts in partnership with labor, industry, government, and other stakeholders are usually the best means of achieving successful outcomes. Fostering these partnerships is a cornerstone of the NIOSH program for Immune, Dermal & Infectious Diseases.
  • Research to Practice ( r2p ): NIOSH research is truly valuable only when put into practice. Every research project within the NIOSH program for Immune, Dermal & Infectious Diseases formulates a strategy to promote the transfer and translation of research findings into prevention practices and products that will be adopted in the workplace.

We apply these important principles both through intramural research that is conducted within NIOSH and extramural research that is funded by NIOSH but conducted by others. Our core mission guides our priorities and by considerations such as surveillance data and stakeholder input that document the need for research. To assure high quality, our projects are subjected to rigorous scientific peer review. To assure coordination, we actively communicate across organizational lines and with our extramural partners. In all our efforts, we seek to optimize the quality, relevance, and impact of NIOSH-funded activities in the Immune, Dermal and Infectious Diseases Cross-Sector.

The diseases represented by this cross-sector have always been an important priority area for NIOSH. Together with the rest of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), NIOSH has worked to prevent occupational immune and skin diseases as well as the transmission of infectious diseases to workers. The potential dermal and immune toxicities of numerous industrial materials have been identified and characterized by NIOSH encouraging limitations in their use, or the adoption of engineering controls or use of protective clothing and gloves. With the advent of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS) epidemic in the late 1980s the prevention of needlestick injuries and more recently determing the pathways responsible for the transmission of the viral pathogen H1N1 virus have been major focuses.