Respiratory Health Program

Updated August 9, 2023

Triple image of a miner, a dental hygienist, and a worker grinding an industrial part

The Respiratory Health Program provides national and international leadership for preventing work-related respiratory diseases and optimizing workers’ respiratory health by generating new knowledge and transferring that knowledge into practice to benefit workers.

Featured Items
image of pdf for silicosis
The Respiratory Health Program collaborated with state public health departments and academic investigators to report an outbreak of silicosis among engineered stone countertop workers in four states and further disseminated information for prevention in an infographic available in EnglishSpanish, and Chinese.
image of copd youtube video Faces of Work-related COPD
The National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) Respiratory Health Cross-sector Council developed an impact video series on the causes and prevention of work-related chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
image that says Faces of Black Lung II A follow-up to the initial Faces of Black Lung I video, Faces of Black Lung II is an informational video with commentary from medical experts and testimonials of miners that have the disease who are younger (30s & 40s) than the miners who appeared in the first “Faces” video (50s). The miner’s stories provide the full impact of this disease that is still a very serious risk to coal miners today.
Cross-Sector Description

The Respiratory Health Program (RHP) advances NIOSH efforts to prevent work-related illness, improve workers’ respiratory health, and encourage multidisciplinary cooperation and collaboration across NIOSH programs and with external partners. RHP addresses a range of hazardous exposures and related health outcomes in every industrial sector. Adverse work-related health outcomes include lower and upper airways diseases, interstitial lung diseases (e.g., coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, asbestosis, silicosis); respiratory tract and pleural malignancies (e.g., lung cancer, mesothelioma); and new and emerging exposures and related diseases (e.g., engineered nanomaterials).

Research Priorities

The Respiratory Health Program selects research priorities on the basis of burden, need, and impact, addresses occupational respiratory health inequities and collaborates with other NIOSH research programs to identify and promulgate the research goals in the NIOSH Strategic Plan for FYs 2019-2024. The priority areas of respiratory health research include:

  • Preventing fixed airway diseases such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), obliterative bronchiolitis (OB), and other diseases affecting airways such as hypersensitivity pneumonitis (HP) among workers in Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing
  • Reducing diseases caused by mineral dusts including silica and elongate mineral fibers, and mixed exposures, such as those associated with welding, abrasive blasting and nanomaterials among Construction workers
  • Reducing respiratory disease among Healthcare and Social Assistance workers including work-related asthma caused by a variety of agents associated with lung diseases in dental personnel
  • Reducing respiratory diseases among Manufacturing workers including dust-induced and fixed airway diseases and work-related asthma
  • Reducing diseases caused by mineral dusts including asbestos, coal mining dust, and silica, and those caused by mixed exposures among Mining workers
  • Reducing silica-induced respiratory diseases caused by hydraulic fracturing among Oil and Gas Extraction workers
  • Preventing fixed airway diseases such as COPD caused by dust and smoke inhalation among Public Safety workers
  • Preventing lower and upper airway diseases caused by mixed exposures (including dampness and mold) among Services workers

The Respiratory Health Program Performance One-Pager (PPOP) offers a snapshot of recent NIOSH programs’ priorities, strategies used to make progress towards priorities, recent accomplishments, and upcoming work.

Recent select accomplishments of the Respiratory Health Program include:

To learn more

Resources and Topic Pages

NORA Council
The NIOSH Respiratory Health Program helps lead the NORA Respiratory Health Cross-Sector Council, which brings together individuals and organizations to share information, form partnerships, and promote adoption and dissemination of solutions that work. The council seeks to facilitate the most important research, understand the most effective intervention strategies, and learn how to implement those strategies to achieve sustained improvements in workplace practice. The final version of the research agenda for the Respiratory Health council can be found here .

Contact the Respiratory Health Program with any questions at