2008 Direct-Reading Exposure Assessment Methods (D.R.E.A.M.) Workshop
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication Number 2009-133
Refined DRM Research Priorities
All of the breakout groups determined that research should seek to develop new or refined technologies that meet sector-specific DRM needs, and several addressed the question of how to encourage product development for niche markets. Other recurring themes emerged from the breakout group reports:
- Worker empowerment involves educating and training users to better understand how specific DRMs work, what the DRMs can and cannot do, and how to interpret the data from their DRMs.
- In nearly every setting, standards are needed to ensure the accuracy of DRMs and to validate their performance.
- Efforts are needed to speed the transition from research to real-world application of DRMs.
The criteria for exposure must be re-evaluated or defined in several sectors.
Session 1: Gases and Vapors
- Pursue gas chromatography miniaturization, which could be coupled with other detectors, sensor arrays, or mass spectrometry, for example, to identify one compound within a mixture.
- Explore workers’ ability to measure their own exposures. To accrue more data, evaluate options that are simple, cheap, and provide high throughput. Some accuracy may be sacrificed to provide more raw data.
- Refine existing technologies and improve their sensitivity and selectivity, e.g., for detecting toxic gases, hydrogen sulfide, and carbon monoxide.
- Make devices multi-functional, e.g., capable of recording chemicals present, temperature, and heart rate and incorporating global positioning systems.
- Develop self-calibrated systems, eliminating the need for gas transport.
- Focus on “niche” DRMs, e.g., for formaldehyde, hafnium, chloramines (for the poultry industry), nicotine, R-N=C=O. Explore how NIOSH can contribute to development of DRMs with narrow market applications and that are unlikely to be commercially successful.
- Establish NIOSH-OSHA collaboration to transition new DRMs to compliance-acceptable status.
- Develop DRMs for unknown chemical components in mixtures.
- Seek methods for worker empowerment, e.g., DRMs that give feedback directly to workers, thus giving them options to modify their behavior or environment.
Session 2: Aerosols
- Conduct basic research on how instruments respond to different aerosol characteristics.
- Invent/continue development of aerosol monitors, especially agent-specific monitors (not just dust).
- Develop consensus standards on accuracy and validation with input from manufacturers, OSHA, and other stakeholders. NIOSH should not be responsible for validating instruments.
- Develop standards for performance and use of monitors.
- Develop sector-specific education and guidance on use of monitors in specific environments.
Session 3: Ergonomics
- Assess the specific needs of specific customers for DRMs (e.g., researchers, practitioners, workers). The relativity immaturity of the field demands that more basic research be conducted.
- Develop technologies to measure exposure dose or improve existing technology (e.g., through miniaturization or better usability).
- Investigate pathophysiological processes associated with exposure (e.g., biomonitoring for tissue response as an indicator of musculoskeletal outcomes).
- Establish valid exposure assessment criteria. Currently, no exposure limits exist.
- Translate research into practical instruments for DRMs.
Session 4: Noise
- Reexamine the basis for current damage risk criteria. Mr. Kardous called for seeking universal consensus on a new set of criteria.
- Determine the relationship between DRMs, metrics, and behavior modification to understand whether workers change their behavior in response to instant feedback from a monitor.
- Develop new sensor technology (e.g., microphones, acoustic mannequins) that can be used in more settings, such as law enforcement.
- Develop a repository of exposure and risk data to help assess damage risk criteria and develop metrics, for example. Divisions throughout NIOSH have decades’ worth of research data that could be linked together to create a rich database for analysis.
Session 5: Radiation
- Develop new technology for biological DRMs that are direct-reading, efficient, and available, using biodosimetry and bioassays, for example, which are already in use overseas.
- Reduce size and increase speed of neutron radiation detection for all energies.
- Establish mechanisms for independent third-party testing of instruments.
- Develop methods and standards for detecting airborne particles (for chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear threats) for immediate first responders.
Potential roles for NIOSH:
- Evaluate and report on real-life operator experience with instruments in various industries—both routine and emergency operations, international and domestic populations—and the possible transfer of emerging technology to the United States.
- Expand participation in the Inter-Agency Board to develop equipment standards and enhance interoperability for all chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear threat detection approaches.
- Expand role in developing national and international standards.
- Identify gaps in safety practices nationwide. Develop training materials and guides to bridge gaps. Identify opportunities for solutions using DRMs.
- Collaborate with stakeholders on development and implementation of new DRMs.
Session 6: Surface Sampling & Biomonitoring
- Develop standards to ensure that products live up to manufacturers’ claims and to identify what a given product can or cannot do in various circumstances. One organization should oversee standards development.
- Address accreditation to further ensure manufacturers adhere to standards and ensure that accreditation mechanisms are defensible in court.
- Establish training for users on how DRMs work, what they can and cannot do, and how to interpret results.
- Determine the purpose of DRMs (e.g., screening, mitigation) and what constitutes an acceptable DRM for that purpose. Action levels (i.e., exposure levels that require action be taken) are needed but should be developed after standards are established.
- Identify new biomarkers and sensors, partnering with other organizations to leverage time and funds and seeking new uses for existing technology.