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Activities: Archived NIOSH Funded Research Grants

NIOSH sponsors research and training through its extramural programs, which complement the Institute's intramural programs. More information is available from the NIOSH Office of Extramural Programs. The NIOSH grants applicable to the PPT Program are summarized below. Realizing that the universe of PPT is far-reaching, we have included extramural grants outside of NIOSH in the Other Research Grants section for reference. Outputs and associated results from both NIOSH extramural grants and other extramural grants are being evaluated for consideration as inputs to future program planning.

Archive of Expired Grants

Advanced Personal Gas Detectors for Mining Applications

The risk of explosions in underground mines due to the presence of combustible gases is severe. The overall long-term objective of the proposed project is to develop and commercialize a new generation of affordable, reliable and portable hazardous gas detector in a smart card format for use as a personal safety tool. The development of such an easy to use and wear personal monitor for the detection of combustible gases (e.g., methane) would substantially benefit worker health and safety. The specific goal of the Phase I project is to develop a critical element of such a monitor, namely a low-power, high-performance reliable gas micro-sensor to detect combustible gases in mining environments. Combustible gas sensors available on the market today typically involve catalytic beads (pellistors), or in the case of permanent installations, also infrared (IR) sensor technology. These are not suitable for personal monitoring due either to bulk and cost (IR) or high power consumption (catalytic bead). Additionally, the stability and reliability of existing combustible gas sensors need to be improved to enable fail-safe operation. Synkera proposes the development of new and improved catalytic combustible gas micro-sensors based on a new micro-sensor platform technology, integrating precision-engineered nanostructured sensing elements with high surface area into a robust monolithic ceramic platform. To achieve the project objectives, in Phase I Synkera will 1) select a micro-sensor design to achieve low power required by the smart card format; 2) produce sensor substrates with varied nanoscale morphology; 3) develop catalyst formulations; 4) evaluate and develop an understanding of the effect of substrate morphology, catalyst formulation, and operating mode on the sensor performance and stability; and 5) produce prototype low-power sensors and demonstrate their potential in achieving performance required for portable gas monitors. The proposed combustible gas micro-sensors will have strong benefits in high sensitivity and selectivity, low-power consumption, chemical and mechanical stability, and fast response. This Phase I project will lay the foundation for the development of inexpensive, user friendly, ultra- portable and robust personal gas monitors. The mining industry is one of the more challenging occupational sectors that involve adverse working conditions, including the presence of hazardous and combustible gases. Current gas monitoring is accomplished via both fixed systems and portable instruments; however, the size and cost of current portable instruments has been a barrier to their use by all mining employees. The proposed sensor will support a new type of dramatically improved and inexpensive portable combustible gas monitor for individual use, thus enabling a new approach to alleviating intrinsic hazards of this occupation.

Project contact: Dmitri Routkevitch
Synkera Technologies, Inc.
Project period: April 2007-October 2007

Bioelectronic Telemetry System for Fire Fighter Safety

The incidence of preventable serious injury and death among on-duty fire fighters is much higher than in most other occupations. More than 100 fire fighters a year are killed in the line of duty, many more in some years. Generally, more than 50% of these deaths are from heart attacks due to the high stress associated with extreme exertion in life-and-death situations. The goal of the proposed work is to develop a novel monitoring system for the fire industry which will transmit vital sign and environmental parameter data from fire fighters in a burning building to the safety officer or incident commander on the outside. By detecting when a fire fighter is becoming dangerously fatigued, the safety officer can make medically sound decisions about when to rotate personnel, thereby avoiding preventable injury and death. The work will focus on selecting sensors to measure the desired vital signs and environmental parameters, incorporating these sensors into fire fighter timeout gear, designing appropriate electronics and processing for these sensors, developing a robust telemetry system for reliably transferring data from within a variety of structures, and designing a user-interface that can be easily used by a fire safety officer. Because all of the engineers in Extreme Endeavors are also fire fighters and/or emergency medical technicians, the company has a unique perspective on the engineering requirements and tradeoffs for such a system. Under Phase I, a proof-of-concept system was constructed that allowed monitoring of heart rate, ECG, ambient temperature, body temperature, and motion detection on a single fire fighter inside a burning structure with 1-foot thick reinforced concrete walls. No system meeting these specifications existed previous to this Phase I project. Under Phase II funding, we propose to broadly extend and enhance the capabilities of the system developed in Phase I. Specifically, we will provide the ability to monitor additional vital signs and environmental parameters, enhance the ability of the units carried by the fire fighters to process and analyze data, design an entirely new telemetry system that will function under a broader range of situations, develop a simpler user-interface for application in the fire industry, and work on ruggedizing the system and incorporating the sensors into fire fighter turnout gear.

Project contact: Michael Masterman
Extreme Endeavors and Consulting
Project period: 2004-2007

Developing a Low-Cost Miniature Personal Noise Dosimeter

The objective of the proposed research is to develop a miniature, low cost, user-friendly personal sound level dosimeter. This dosimeter will fill the need of those consumers whose work-related or recreation-related activities expose them to sounds that might cause hearing loss. In contrast to typical dosimeter use, in which control of the dosimeter and its data lies with a manager or clinician, the wearers of the proposed dosimeter will control it and receive its data output, thereby facilitating their understanding and appreciation of their sound exposure dose. The proposed dosimeter can also function as a sound level meter for instantaneous monitoring of sound levels. The feasibility of the proposed development will be tested in Phase 1 by demonstrating that a miniature, low-cost dosimeter can meet the ANSI S1.25-1991 standard for such devices. Preliminary tests with a microcontroller-based system suggest that approximations to the standard dosimeter function blocks can be made without sacrificing the operating tolerances specified by the ANSI standard. Other tests with inexpensive microphone capsules show that drift due to temperature and humidity is within acceptable tolerances. By reducing the number of features, simplifying signal processing, and using inexpensive microphones and a microcontroller, a low-cost miniature dosimeter should be realizable. In Phase I, a prototype dosimeter will be developed around a Texas Instruments-embedded controller and LCD display powered by a single lithium cell. After testing to verify that the ANSI standard has been met, a limited set of field tests, with wearers using both the proposed prototype and a commercial dosimeter, will be carried out to further validate the overall dosimetry performance of the prototype. Future work in Phase II will focus on performance improvements and making the dosimeter production-ready through (a) reductions in size and power consumption, (b) ergonomic design of controls, (c) more informative and user-friendly displays, (d) possible tactile or visual feedback, and (e) incorporation of more accurate measures of risk from impulsive noise exposure. The proposed dosimeter (plus sound level meter) is intended to provide an accurate measure of sound exposure dose (or level) that is both affordable and meaningful for consumers. The eventual product will be sold via Internet and catalog channels aimed at industries that are not actively monitored by OSHA (e.g., construction, drilling, agriculture, music) and noisy recreational activities (e.g., shooting, motor sports, and music).

Project contact: Harold Cheyne
Sensimetrics Corporation
Project period: 2005-2006

Escape Respirators for First Responders

First responders are the men and women who are first on the scene of a natural or man-made disaster. They are also the last to leave the scene. First responders are policemen, firemen, and emergency medical technicians. There are 11 million state and local first responders in 87,000 jurisdictions throughout the United States. Escape hoods that are effective against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) agents need to be developed and approved by the NIOSH so that first responders may use them effectively. TDA Research, Inc. (TDA) and its commercial partner are jointly proposing to develop a CBRN escape hood that will meet the recently announced standards by the NIOSH. In addition to CBRN protection, the escape hood will be designed to be effective against carbon monoxide. In the Phase I project, TDA will design, fabricate and test catalytic materials that are effective in removing CO at or below room temperatures. TDA and its commercial partner will also design canisters that will house the sorbent/catalyst at the end of the project.

Project contact: Girish Srinivas
Project period: 2007-2007

Factors Influencing Farmers' Use of Hearing Protectors

Project contact: Marjorie McCullagh
North Dakota University
Project period: 2005-2007

Field Glove Permeation Instrumental Methods Development

Project contact: Shane Que Hee
Project period: 2001-2002

From Nanoparticles to Novel Protective Garments

Project contact: Shyamala Rajagopalan
Project period: 2004-2005

Model Development for the Design of Better Mist Filters

Project contact: Peter C. Raynor
Project period: 2000-2002

Permeation of Irritant Mixtures Through Protective Materials

Project contact: Shane Que Hee
Project period: 2000-2003

Polymer Web Sensing System

Skin diseases resulting from occupational accidents are the most common non-trauma-related occupational illness. According to NIOSH, about 45,000 occupational illnesses in 1999 were skin diseases. Despite the protective chemical clothing (PCC) normally used to prevent skin contact with toxic chemicals, thousands of workers each year suffer from irritant contact dermatitis. To prevent injuries by warning workers before toxic chemicals break through PCC, a fast-responding chemical warning system is required. Development of a simple, wearable, low-cost (ideally disposable) micro-sensing distributed sensor system to warn workers before acids or other chemicals work their way through PCC will significantly benefit occupational safety. Physical Optics Corporation (POC) proposes to design and develop a new wearable Polymer Web (POLYWEB) sensing system based on a flexible polymer waveguide web (PWW) and an interrogation module (IM). The PWW consists of a large number of acid-sensitive polymer optical waveguides forming a network to monitor all areas of PCC. This optical network will detect chemical penetration even in hard to observe/inspect areas of PCC. Because the IM breaks up the spectrum of its broadband light source, it can independently monitor diverse parts of the PCC. The system warns a worker in the event of impending chemical breakthrough, preventing skin injury. In addition to individual PCC hazard warning, POLYWEB commercial applications will include failure notification in large-surface systems for containment of hazardous materials and monitoring in the biotechnology industry. In Phase I POC will demonstrate the feasibility of the proposed system by fabricating and testing a scaled-down prototype that will demonstrate detection and quantification of a reduced number of chemical compounds. The number of sensing elements/waveguides and the number of chemicals to be detected will be scaled up in an optimized Phase II prototype. The POLYWEB sensing system will respond in real-time to a breach of toxic chemicals through protective clothing used in the workplace, to prevent direct contact with a worker's skin. The proposed system will significantly reduce skin diseases resulted from occupational accidents, estimated by NIOSH to be about 50,000.

Project contact: Leonid Bukshpun
Physical Optics Corporation
Project period: April 2007-October 2007

Respiratory Protection Against Bioaerosols in Agriculture

Agricultural workers are often exposed to high concentrations of airborne microorganisms and at increased risk for developing respiratory diseases. Currently, little is known regarding the effectiveness of respirators used by agricultural workers especially with respect to airborne microorganisms. In the original grant, we developed a new method to measure workplace protection factors (WPF) of N95 filtering facepiece respirators against biological and non-biological particles. Our pilot-scale field study showed intriguing results on the effect of particle size and particle type on the WPF. Decreasing particle size decreased the WPF in a size range of 0.3 to 10 urn. Surprisingly, WPF-values against biological particles were 2-6 times lower than those measured for all dust particles in the same size range. The first aim of the proposed continuation is to generate a comprehensive field database on the WPF against biological particles and dust. Each subject (25 farmers or agricultural workers) will repeat WPF testing with two respirator models (one N-95 filtering facepiece and one elastomeric half-facepiece). The study will provide unique new data on the range of WPFs against particles of different characteristics in real field settings. The second aim is to investigate the effect of particle characteristics on their penetration into the respirator by manikin-based investigation and theoretical modeling. Particles from three selected farms will be characterized in regards to their aerodynamic size, shape, and microbiological composition. This testing is performed to select non-biological test particles and to isolate fungi and bacteria for further laboratory testing. Respirator performance will be compared for particles of different characteristics by manikin-based laboratory testing. Finally, manikin-based testing will be performed at three selected farms to assure realistic aerosol characteristics and composition. The combination of field and laboratory-based data and theoretical modeling will provide much-needed generalizable information to refine the guidelines on respirator use and to design more efficient respirators. This information can also be utilized for other work environments in which the respiratory protection is needed, such as moldy buildings, health care settings, and areas affected by bioterrorism. This proposal is well in line with NIOSH mission as the study outcome will help assure safe and healthful working conditions for agricultural workers through research, information, and training on respirators.

Project contact: Tina Reponen
University of Cincinnati
Project period: 2001-2004

Risk Assessment for Airborne Bioterrorism Agents

Project contact: Mark Nicas
Project period: 2003-2004

SCBA Oximetry for Fire Fighter Physiologic Monitoring

This Phase II project focuses on remote physiologic status monitoring of personnel wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) through self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA)-based oximetry systems, radio-telemetry and processing software for the development of an adjunct safety device addressing the prevalent problem of volitional fatigue experienced by fire fighters combating structural fires. An integrated SCBA-based monitoring system capable of unencumbered assessment of the physiological status of fire fighters under exertive working conditions would greatly serve to reduce fire fighter line-of-duty deaths attributed to heart attacks and other manifestations of physiologic stress and offers a valuable research tool for studying exertion-related heat stress in workers wearing PPE. During Phase I of this effort, an initial prototype was built and validated that acute changes in the DC, or non-pulsatile component of the oximetry waveform, correspond to physiologic fatigue in working fire fighters. The proposed Phase II project further develops the SCBA-based monitoring system, and focuses on refining and building the next generation prototype, defining the physiologic reactions to exertion as measured by the oximetry waveforms to establish monitoring parameters and alarm thresholds, and developing and evaluating algorithms based on physiologic correlations against changes in DC oximetry. Once the units are fabricated, they will be evaluated under realistic field conditions to demonstrate hardness, functionality, and system reliability. Research and testing to date suggests that this system will effectively provide reliable and non-invasive identification of the onset of volitional fatigue and facilitate timely fire fighter self-rescue.

Project contact: William Wiesmann
Sekos, Inc.
Project period: 2000-2007

System for Measuring Workplace Protection Factors

Project contact: William A. Groves
Project period: 1999-2002

Using the Agricultural Safety and Health Best Management Practices (ASHBMP) Manual as a Tool to Reduce Farm Hazards

This project will include working with two audiences--youth and their parents. Both are found working on farms and as such, both are exposed to the same farm hazards. This project will evaluate the postulate that youth may influence their parents in reducing farm hazards. The project addresses Goal 1 (develop new or enhance existing control technologies) of the research goals of this RFA by developing and evaluating a youth-oriented version of the Agricultural Safety and Health Best Management Practices (ASHBMP) Manual. A previous study, Adult ASHBMP Study, showed the original (Adult) ASHBMP Manual to be effective in reducing hazard levels when used by adult farmers. This study will investigate the use of the concept of the ASHBMP Manual by 12- to 15-year-old farm resident youth to reduce farm hazard levels. The Adult ASHBMP Manual has a reading level of Grade 11. A Youth ASHBMP Manual will be developed with a reading level of Grade 6. The research objectives for this developmental project are to: determine the effect of the Adult and Youth ASHBMP Manuals and youth-parent interaction about safety topics in modifying safety behaviors on the farm; determine the effects of using the visually-oriented ASHBMP as a hazard audit tool for reducing hazards on farms; determine the relative effectiveness of youth use of the Adult ASHBMP Manual as compared to adults; and evaluate inter-rater reliability and internal consistency of the Adult and Youth ASHBMP Manuals as an auditing tool for use by youth. The Youth ASHBMP must first be developed. The study employs the safety fact sheets used in the Adult ASHBMP Study for the control measure. Youth-oriented fact sheets will be developed, as a second control measure and used in evaluating the Youth ASHBMP Manual. The last objective of this study is to develop the Youth ASHBMP into a CD-ROM. This is an economical choice, considering the high costs of printing.

Project contact: Joel Steel
National Safety Council
Project period: 2001-2004


Active NIOSH Funded Research Grants


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