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RESPIRATORY DISEASES

worker wearing respirator, lab worker, lungs

Activities: NIOSH Research Projects

Coal Workers’ Health Surveillance Program

This project responds to mandates set forth by The Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act to protect the health and safety of underground coal miners. This Act directed NIOSH to study the causes and consequences of coal-related respiratory disease and, in cooperation with MSHA, to carry out a program for early detection and prevention of coal workers' pneumoconiosis. Specifications governing this project are found in 42 CFR Part 37, Specifications for Medical Examinations of Underground Coal Miners. Data obtained from this project are used to notify individual miners of their health status, to evaluate the effectiveness of dust exposure control in underground coal mines and to provide primary and secondary prevention efforts. The principal outcome of this project is specific information detailing the prevalence, trends, and patterns of pneumoconiosis in U.S. coal miners. The project’s outcomes are useful to federal and state mine enforcement officials, industry and labor health and safety personnel, and physicians who examine and treat miners.

Program contact: E. Lee Petsonk
Division of Respiratory Disease Studies
(304) 285-5749
Project period: 10/1970–9/2014

Enhanced Coal Workers’ Health Surveillance Program

Analysis of data from the Coal Workers’ Health Surveillance Program suggests certain groups of miners are at elevated risk to develop coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (CWP). Increased risk was associated with work in certain mining jobs, smaller mines, several geographic areas, and among contract miners. To address these disparities, NIOSH has initiated an enhanced health surveillance program using a mobile health screening van to improve the availability of examinations for coal miners. The results of the examinations will be analyzed to detect patterns of disease and potential causative factors in order to reduce the prevalence and severity of dust-related lung disease in miners. The principal outcome of this project is specific information detailing the prevalence, trends, and patterns of pneumoconiosis and airflow limitation in U.S. coal miners. Outcomes will be useful to federal and state mine enforcement officials, industry and labor health and safety personnel, and physicians who examine and treat miners.

Program contact: E. Lee Petsonk
Division of Respiratory Disease Studies
(304) 285-5749
Project period: 3/2006–9/2014

Worker Monitoring Using Imaging Techniques

This project involves the design and performance of research to evaluate and enhance the application of digital chest radiographic images to assess workers at risk for dust-related lung diseases including miners, agricultural and construction workers. Through interaction with scientific, professional groups and opinion leaders, the convening of workshops, and publications in print and electronic media, the project will provide authoritative guidance to radiologic imaging facilities, B Readers, and other health professionals in optimizing the application of chest radiographic images in research, surveillance, and clinical practice.

Program contact: Michael D. Attfield
Division of Respiratory Disease Studies
(304) 285-5749
Project period: 10/2005–9/2014

Worker Monitoring Using Pulmonary Function Testing

This project will focus on developing methods for worker monitoring using pulmonary function testing (PFT), supplemented as appropriate, by other medical indicators such as respiratory symptoms. Statistical theory, exploration of measured data, and simulation methods will be employed to refine knowledge on measuring and achieving high data quality, and to develop practical and useful approaches for use in reliably identifying individuals suffering adverse PFT declines. Proposed methods will be evaluated in collaboration with companies undertaking monitoring, as well as using existing data. Recommendations will be developed from the results for dissemination to stakeholders via publications and the internet. Practical guidance will be offered where appropriate to those desiring to improve the utility of their monitoring programs. The project is responsive to NIOSH goals in various industry sectors.

Program contact: E. Lee Petsonk
Division of Respiratory Disease Studies
(304) 285-5749
Project period: 10/2005–9/2013

Respiratory Disease Health Hazard Evaluations

The Respiratory Disease Hazard Evaluation and Technical Assistance (RDHETA) Program is a Federally mandated program that investigates workplace exposures to toxic substances and physical agents upon request of employers, employees, or their representatives; develops evaluation criteria and survey techniques to assess conditions that cause health effects and are not covered by regulatory controls; disseminates findings and recommendations to workers, industry, labor, the general public, and as appropriate, recommends new exposure standards to regulatory agencies; and provides consultative assistance to Federal, State and local agencies in efforts to control occupational health hazards. Recent evaluations have been in the areas of occupational asthma (indoor air quality and soy flake processing), Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), hard metal disease (cobalt), respiratory disease among grill cooks, and flavoring-related bronchiolitis obliterans (flavoring manufacturers).

Program contact: Kathleen Kreiss
Division of Respiratory Disease Studies
(304) 285-5749
Project period: 10/1987–9/2013

Health and Hazard Surveillance Systems: Development and Analysis

This project integrates mortality, morbidity, and hazard surveillance activities pertaining to occupational respiratory disease. Its objectives are to identify, acquire, analyze, and report mortality and morbidity data for respiratory diseases and exposure/hazard control data for disease agents obtained from national and other data sources, and to develop and maintain health and hazard surveillance systems. This project facilitates essential health and hazard tracking across important industries, including agriculture, construction, and mining. The project will continue its contribution to the products from the ORDS Dissemination Information Project, which fills the vital role of disseminating current surveillance information for occupational respiratory diseases in the United States. This specific project output will provide the most current mortality trends to aid in the practices and recommendations to reduce work-related diseases and related exposures.

Program contact: Jacek Mazurek
Division of Respiratory Disease Studies
(304) 285-5749
Project period: 10/2006–9/2014

Beryllium Disease Surveillance/Research

Chronic beryllium disease is a lung disease that occurs in workers who become sensitized to the metal in such manufacturing sector industries as metal fabrication, nuclear, dental laboratory work, and electronics applications, among others. This research is focused on understanding key risk factors predicting beryllium-related health outcomes so that preventive strategies can be implemented and evaluated. This work will contribute to prevention of beryllium disease by showing which beryllium work environments are hazardous, which exposure metrics best predict disease, the role of dermal exposure in sensitization, genetic risk factors, and gene-environment interactions.

Program contact: Christine Schuler
Division of Respiratory Disease Studies
(304) 285-5749
Project period: 10/1997–9/2012

Worker Respiratory Health Post-Remediation of Water Damage

A multi-story office building with recurrent water damage has a history of indoor air quality and respiratory health complaints, including a 7-fold excess of asthma incidence since occupancy in 1994. In response, the building management has committed to further remediation and requested that NIOSH provide follow-up evaluation of both environment and employees. The 2005 and 2007 surveys will provide information on effectiveness of previous remediation in 2004 and subsequent remediation in 2006. Occupancy by a new state agency in 2005 allowed follow-up of new occupants without previous exposures to dampness in this building and its health correlates in the building. Also this project builds capacity to solve respiratory health problems in damp schools in Maine by using existing data bases on school facilities and performance measures to prioritize interventions and by promoting the use of inexpensive assessment tools for health and dampness indices in the New England school facilities. The project will also document the time course of changes in health and environmental measures after remediation of water incursion in school facilities in New England. The expected outcomes are application of the results in decision making in schools participating in the study and by state agencies and dissemination of tools for use by school personnel in solving indoor environmental quality problems.

Program contacts: Jean Cox-Ganser and Ju-Heyong-Park
Division of Respiratory Disease Studies
(304) 285-5749
Project period: 10/2005–9/2010

Work-Related Asthma Research and Prevention

Work-related asthma (WRA) is the most common occupational lung disease. This project comprises four sub-projects that contribute to the goal of preventing WRA. First, workplace exacerbation of asthma (WEA) is common, but has received little attention from researchers. We are conducting epidemiologic research at the population level to estimate the extent and impact of WEA. Second, farmers are at risk for asthma. We collaborate with NIEHS on the Agricultural Health Study to identify risk factors for asthma among farmers. Third, prompt identification of WRA is associated with a better prognosis. We are working to improve the use of serial spirometry for identifying WRA. Fourth, we maintain a website with current information about WRA prevention. The findings generated or publicized by this project help stakeholders plan and implement prevention.

Program contact: Paul Henneberger
Division of Respiratory Disease Studies
(304) 285-5749
Project period: 2/2000–9/2010

Tungsten Oxide Fiber Dissolution in Artificial Lung Fluids

Tungsten is a dense metal that is used in a range of industrial applications, including non-sag wire for light bulb filaments, pigments for paints, and cemented tungsten carbide (alloyed tungsten carbide and cobalt) cutting tools. Evidence is emerging that tungsten production and possibly hard metal manufacturing workers may be exposed via inhalation to tungsten oxide particulate with fibrous morphology and this morphology could pose a yet unrecognized inhalation hazard. Little is understood regarding the physicochemical properties of occupationally-encountered tungsten oxide fibers or their intrinsic solubility in extracellular lung fluid or lung macrophage phagolysosomes. As such, the aim of this research is measure the relative solubility of three tungsten oxide fiber-containing powders and three non-fiber containing powders in two acellular models of human lung fluids. Resultant solubility and biopersistence data will be used, in part, to support scientific-based decision making regarding the efficacy of current inhalation exposure limits for non-fibrous tungsten forms (oxide, metal, carbide) for tungsten oxide fibers.

Program contact: Aleks Stefaniak
Division of Respiratory Disease Studies
(304) 285-5749
Project period: 5/2007–8/2009

Nanoscale Reference Materials (RMs) for Respiratory Disease Prevention

Nanoscale RMs are needed for evaluating exposure assessment tools and for performing high quality toxicology studies. Strong inter-agency interactions between NIOSH and NIST to better coordinate efforts to develop nanoscale RMs will result in products that optimally meet the needs of end-users. Current nanoscale RM efforts are focused on titanium dioxide. Parallel collaborative efforts to identify and preliminarily characterize EN with potential for development into RMs will expedite bringing new RMs to marker. Finally, classification schemes for hazard potential based on knowledge of material properties and/or toxicological behavior will guide future needs for RM development.

Program contact: Aleks Stefaniak
Division of Respiratory Disease Studies
(304) 285-5749
Project period: 10/2007–9/2011

Nanoparticles: Lung Dosimetry and Risk Assessment

The purposes of this project are: (1) to update and extend the current rat and human lung dosimetry models to account for sizes specific differences in the clearance and translocation of inhaled particles, including the role of particle surface area dose; (2) to analyze dose-response relationships in animals and extrapolate to humans; and (3) to predict airborne exposure concentrations in workers that are not expected to cause adverse lung responses, even if workers are exposed to such levels for a full working lifetime. This project will utilize experimental data to be generated in a NIOSH/HELD companion project, as well as data from previously published studies. The long-term goal is to assess the health risks of occupational exposure to nanoparticles and to estimate safe exposure levels.

Program contact: Eileen Kuempel
Education and Information Division
(513) 833-8302
Project period: 10/2005–9/2012

Dermal Exposure and Sensitization Risk

The purpose of this project is to assess and evaluate relative levels of beryllium skin exposure occurring among workers at beryllium production facilities. This project includes collection of cotton over-gloves for estimating relative skin exposures and personal air samples for estimating inhalation exposures from workers in facilities involved in specific processes that either are or are not associated with increased risk of beryllium sensitization and disease. Upon completion, we will improve understanding and help reduce exposure risk of beryllium sensitization and disease among the one million ever-beryllium-exposed workers in the United States. Information learned will be pertinent to workers exposed to beryllium and other sensitizing agents and to workers, management, and policy makers in the broader metals industries, including hard metal, aluminum refining and smelting, recycling, and nanotechnology.

Program contact: Greg Day
Division of Respiratory Disease Studies
(304) 285-5749
Project period: 10/2006–9/2010

Direct Reading Methods Initiative

The Exposure Assessment NORA Implementation Team has identified the following as one of its goals: Develop or improve specific methods and tools to assess worker exposures to critical occupational agents and stressors. This will include not only instrumentation but also issues such as rapid field assessment of environmental and biological samples and analytical methods. The initiative will have three main parts: a) gathering stakeholder and subject matter expert input on research needs by holding a DRM workshop, b) providing the latest information to stakeholders via a DRM web site, and c) funding new intramural and extramural DRM-related research projects. The anticipated highlights for FY2009 are the workshop being held and the development of the proceedings and a list of research priorities and the continuing update of the DRM website.

Program contact: Chris Coffey
Division of Respiratory Disease Studies
(304) 285-5749
Project period: 10/2008–9/2012

Exposure Assessment Tools for Airborne Sensitizers

This project will develop exposure assessment tools for airborne sensitizers beginning with crude indices of exposure potential and progressing to biologically relevant measures of effect. Successful completion of this project will result in tools for quantifying skin exposures and estimating skin barrier integrity in the workplace. Use of these tools will greatly improve upon existing skin exposure assessment methodologies and will ultimately contribute towards a reduction in occupational skin diseases.

Program contact: Terri Pearce
Division of Respiratory Disease Studies
(304) 285-5749
Project period: 10/2008–9/2011

Genetics in Occupational Diseases

This multi-year program is designed to investigate susceptibility gene variants that contribute to the development and severity of occupational ICD and asthma using high-density and high-throughput genotyping platforms. Previous and on-going studies in our laboratory showed that cytokine polymorphisms have a major influence on silicosis, dementia, accelerated decline in lung function and vaccine efficacy. Understanding the genetic contribution to the development, progression and outcomes of complex occupational diseases will help improve the accuracy of risk assessment and improve safe exposure levels for genetically susceptible groups in the workforce. This information could ultimately lead to the identification of novel therapeutic targets and preventative strategies for better management of work-related diseases.

Program contact: Berran Yucesoy
Health Effects Laboratory Division
(304) 285-6121
Project period: 10/2007–9/2012

Isocyanate Method Development and Exposure Assessment

The purposes of this project are 1) to continue to investigate problematic issues in isocyanate sampling and analysis, 2) to develop and evaluate a novel total isocyanate method, 3) to continue technology transfer efforts through collaboration with commercial laboratories, other researchers, and participation in ISO, 4) to contribute to reduction of isocyanate exposures in the truck bedlining industry, 5) to contribute to the investigation of the relationship between isocyanate exposure and health effects in TDI manufacturing facilities, and 6) to assist in the accurate measurement of community TDI exposures. Expected intermediate outcomes and outcomes include 1) technology transfer through collaborations, patents, and ISO involvement, 2) reductions in isocyanate exposures in the truck bedlining industry, 3) a better understanding of the relationship between TDI exposure and health effects.

Program contact: M. Kathleen Ernst
Division of Applied Research and Technology
(513) 533-8462
Project period: 10/2004–9/2009

Lung Effects of Resistance Spot Welding Using Adhesives

Aerosols formed during resistance spot welding may cause respiratory irritation in exposed workers. Information about the composition of substances generated during resistance spot welding is lacking. A robotic welding arm in the NIOSH welding lab will be configured and programmed to perform resistance spot welding to expose laboratory animals using process parameters common in the automotive industry. By using an animal model to mimic workplace exposures, our goal is to determine which component of the aerosols generated during resistance spot welding may be potentially toxic to exposed workers. With the information collected from the proposed NORA-funded study, it may be possible to eliminate or substitute with more inert chemicals the component of the process that is most hazardous to a significant number of workers in the Construction and Manufacturing sectors concerning respiratory disease and exposure to nanoparticles.

Program contact: James Antonini
Health Effects Laboratory Division
(304) 285-6121
Project period: 10/2007–9/2010

Flavorings Risk Assessment

In response to stakeholder interest (OSHA, Congress, CalOSHA, Flavorings and Extracts Manufacturers’ Association) in reports of the respiratory disease, bronchiolitis obliterans, in workers at microwave popcorn and flavoring manufacturers, NIOSH is considering developing authoritative recommendations in the form of a recommended exposure level (REL) and other recommendations regarding engineering controls, work practices, respiratory protection, etc. To support this effort, the Risk Evaluation Branch is conducting a quantitative risk assessment for flavoring components, particularly, diacetyl, which has been implicated as the likely cause of the observed human health effects.

Program contact: David Dankovic
Education and Information Division
(513) 833-8302
Project period: 10/2008–9/2011

Diaceytl Engineering Controls Research

In California, following the diagnosis of bronchiolitis obliterans in two flavoring manufacturing employees, Cal/OSHA and California Department of Public Health initiated an industry-wide investigation of lung disease in flavoring manufacture. Previous NIOSH health hazard evaluations have documented this rare, respiratory disease within the popcorn industry. Severe obstructive lung disease has been recently documented in seven California workers who were involved in the production of flavorings. The flavoring industry which manufactures the flavoring compounds before distribution to end users has remained largely unstudied. Due to the complex mixed exposures within the industry and the absence of inhalation toxicology for most chemicals, an engineering, solution-based approach is being recommended. Objectives of this research are to develop and evaluate potential engineering controls for common processes within the flavoring and flavored food industries.

Program contact: Kevin Dunn
Division of Applied Research and Technology
(513) 533-8462
Project period: 10/2007–9/2011

Global Silica Information Dissemination

The purpose of this project is to aid the PAHO/ILO/WHO silicosis elimination campaign by producing and disseminating useful and accessible information products that will educate our global partners in the areas of laboratory analysis of crystalline silica, silica assessment and control of silica dust exposures, and diagnosis, treatment, and surveillance of silica-related diseases. Project staff includes silica subject matter experts that will address requests for information from developing countries and will work together to develop NIOSH information products from existing information. The experts may also provide training or other technical assistance to health professionals in the developing countries.

Program contact: Faye Rice
Education and Information Division
(513) 833-8302
Project period: 10/2006–9/2013

Aerosol Generation By Cough

The purpose of this project is to study the generation of aerosols of potentially-infectious airway fluids by coughing. Cough generated aerosols are an important means for transmission of infectious diseases such as influenza, tuberculosis, SARS, and potential bioterrorism agents like bubonic plague. Our work will study the quantity and size distribution of aerosol particles produced by coughing, the dissemination of cough-generated aerosols in the environment, and the effectiveness of disposable masks and respirators at preventing the release of cough-generated aerosols. The information gained in our studies will help scientists and health professionals to better understand the airborne transmission of disease and to assess the potential effectiveness of preventive measures. This project impacts personal protective technology to prevent the spread of Respiratory Disease in the Healthcare Sector.

Program contact: William Lindsley
Health Effects Laboratory Division
(304) 285-6121
Project period: 10/2004–9/2009

 

 
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  • Page last reviewed: December 21, 2012
  • Page last updated: December 21, 2012
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