Health Effects Laboratory Division (HELD)

The Health Effects Laboratory Division (HELD) conducts basic and applied laboratory research. Primarily staffed by biologists, chemists, and engineers, its focus is to establish the causes of occupational disease and injury, and to contribute to the development of valid strategies of intervention and prevention.

Science at work for people at work

HELD was formed in 1996 as the basic science research arm of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). It is a strategic leader in integrated laboratory research into mechanisms of occupational disease and injury. Our science mission is to conduct etiologic research to establish causal understanding of hazards and risks; the knowledge is used to prevent harm to people at work.

Workplace hazards vary enormously by industry and type of work

All hazards and their implied risks depend on “causative agents” and “mechanisms of action.” Regardless of whether agents are physical, chemical, or biological, our goal is to understand the means by which agents interact with and cause harm to workers. When agents and mechanisms of causation are known, effective prevention guidelines and control procedures can be developed, and formal health and safety standards can be established. Effective standards inform employers and employees how to operate without risk to workers and their companies.

Causal understanding requires coordinated basic science research in a spectrum of disciplines

HELD has over 160 employees. Science disciplines are represented among our branches of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Biostatistics and Epidemiology, Exposure assessment, Engineering and Control Technology, Pathology and Physiology Research, and Toxicology and Molecular Biology. Our staff works together, across multiple disciplines to enhance scientific understanding. All teams are located in a state-of-the-art facility in Morgantown, West Virginia.

Partnerships and stakeholders are critical to HELD

HELD serves three distinct groups of stakeholders. Other scientists, who use HELD’s body of scientific work to refine their hypotheses, identify unique knowledge, and use ours novel or proven methods and to enhance their own science. Standards organizations use the results of HELD’s science to produce evidence-based standards which are credible to industry and labor. Lastly, HELD transfers technologies directly to manufacturers, and serves product developers indirectly with contributions to foundational science and standards. Peer-reviewed communication is an integral part of our mission, critical to how we influence partners and stakeholders.

NIOSH Health Effects Laboratory Division (HELD) Fact Sheet DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2018-140
Page last reviewed: March 28, 2018