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measurement tools, man near cloud of gas

Input: Economic Factors

The annual economic impacts of workplace illness and injury delineated in the sector and cross-sector program descriptions provide the driving forces for improved exposure assessment approaches and methods. Accurate exposure data are fundamental to effective occupational safety and health research and practice. Without effective ways to identify and measure harmful exposures, inaccurate research conclusions could occur and less than optimal preventive models might be applied. Diseases, for example, could be attributed to the wrong exposures, or important health effects could be overlooked.

Fundamental to the strategy of NIOSH exposure assessment research is the belief that advancements in exposure assessment can help identify at-risk workers, develop the most cost-effective control and intervention strategies, illuminate exposure-response relationships, and improve baseline data for standard setting and risk assessment. Tempering that belief is the recognition that the scope of occupational exposure assessment has broadened considerably in recent years. Rapid technological changes have occurred, and increased research attention is now being placed on service-related and high technology work settings. Major gaps exist between traditional exposure assessment methods and the tools that are needed to anticipate, recognize, evaluate, and control exposures to all types of health occupational stressors in the full spectrum of 21st century workplaces.

In addition to having the potential to reduce the annual economic burden of occupational disease and injury, effective exposure assessment methods and approaches also have the potential to enable the effective utilization by society of emerging new technologies. For example, each year, the U.S. government invests more than $1 billion in nanotechnology research. Worldwide government and corporate spending on nanotechnology research and development is approximately $9 billion. Many of the novel properties that drive this large investment--and that give nanotechnologies the capacity to transform medicines, materials, and consumer products--may also present novel risks. Substantial opportunities exist to improve exposure assessment approaches to meet the challenge of the myriad of nanomaterial forms and uses.