About Health Effects Laboratory Division

At a glance

The Health Effects Laboratory Division (HELD) is a part of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). HELD conducts basic and applied laboratory research focused on evaluating, controlling and preventing workplace safety and health hazards.

What we do

Conduct occupational-related laboratory research in the areas of immunology, allergy, and inflammation.

• Provide statistical design, analysis, and interpretation for experimental research and conduct collaborative observational research focused on introducing new laboratory-based technology into population-based studies.

• Conduct applied research and establish new methods to identify and assess occupational exposures using a variety of approaches including direct reading instruments, sensors, and analytical methods.

• Research new and improved techniques to assess the exposure of workers to chemical, physical, and biological hazards.

• Perform occupational-related research in the area of pathology and physiology.

• Develop realistic models that simulate work activities to better understand exposure response relationships in the workplace.

• Investigate the biological factors responsible for occupational health problems.


HELD manages several NIOSH research programs, including:

Center for Direct Reading and Sensor Technology
This center coordinates research and develops recommendations on the use of new technologies in occupational safety and health.

Immune, Infectious and Dermal Disease Prevention Program
This program includes the study of work-related immune diseases, such as irritant and allergic contact dermatitis, allergic rhinitis, asthma, or infectious disease, caused by work-related exposures. It also includes workplace exposures to chemicals that can be absorbed through contact with skin that may result in adverse health impacts.

Technology and product highlights

NIOSH Manual of Analytic Methods (NMAM)

NMAM is a collection of methods for sampling and analysis of contaminants in workplace air, on workplace surfaces, and in the blood and urine of workers who are occupationally exposed.

Acoustic Particle Generation System

The acoustic particle generation system is based on a NIOSH patented technology and is used to investigate health effects of occupationally relevant nanoparticles and dusts.

Finger Adapter Method

This method evaluates finger protection for workers using vibration reducing (VR) gloves. VR gloves are used to protect workers from hand-transmitted vibration exposure when using power hand tools. The current ISO standard assesses the effectiveness of VR gloves at the palm of the hand, but does not directly assess protection of the fingers. This method has proven to be a convenient and reliable method and a valuable addition to the current standard.

Personal Bioaerosol Cyclone Sampler

This licensed technology collects airborne particles from the environment into relevant respiratory size and into appropriate tubes to facilitate analysis. The air entering the sampler swirls like a cyclone, sticking the airborne particles against the sampler’s walls. Particle size determines where the particles will deposit in the lungs and how dangerous they are to the worker’s health. The sampler and its sister designs have been used to study many types of airborne hazards.

Safety and health research areas

Staff have experience in the following areas:

  • Occupational Immunology
  • Inhalation Toxicology and Respiratory Disease
  • Nanotoxicology
  • Biostatistics Analysis
  • Genomics and Biomarkers
  • Infectious Disease Transmission
  • Neurotoxicology
  • Epidemiology of Subclinical Measures
  • Musculoskeletal Disorders Control
  • Exposure Assessment