Hearing NIOSH's Howard May Not Return, ASSE Urges Reappointment

ASSE said on May 22 that its president, Michael Thompson, has sent a letter to President George W. Bush urging him to appoint NIOSH Director Dr. John Howard to another six-year term. ASSE, AIHA, and others have been urging reappointment for some time, but this new letter states that ASSE "recently learned that CDC's leadership will not renew Dr. Howard's six-year appointment as NIOSH Director."

Howard, an articulate, visonary leader who once headed Cal/OSHA, knows safety and health and has a strong interest in investigating and understanding nascent health issues such as nanotechnology. Even today, the NIOSH blog's lead item is an important discussion of the similar bodily response to long multi-walled carbon nanotubes as to asbestos fibers. New Japanese and British research supports treating them with equal care, such as under sealed or automated conditions or which local exhaust systems in place, according to this post from Vladimir V. Murashov, Ph.D., Special Assistant for Nanotechnology to the NIOSH Director.

But back to Thompson's letter: "ASSE has seen a significant advancement of the mission of NIOSH within the Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) Centers for Disease Control (CDC) under the creative and dedicated leadership of Dr. Howard," wrote Thompson, CSP. "Dr. Howard has been instrumental in unleashing a wealth of talent at NIOSH and helping bring together the research and educational resources of NIOSH to the day-to-day practice of our members in workplaces across the nation. We do not know why such a highly competent leader and administrator of an agency that has been, by any measure, a success in the eyes of our members and the entire safety and health community should not be reappointed. The very positive impact your Administration has had on occupational safety and health through Dr. Howard should be allowed to continue to the end and beyond this Administration. We can think of no more fitting legacy for your Administration’s success in providing leadership in occupational safety and health than by allowing Dr. Howard to continue in this role."

The letter cites these NIOSH accomplishments under Howard: improved integration of the safety and health community in setting NIOSH’s research agenda, 2) leadership in addressing the safety and health risks of emerging technologies, most notably nanotechnology; 3) increased accountability for NIOSH’s research programs by inviting examination through the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine, and 4) active outreach to safety and health practitioners and bringing the research results funded through NIOSH directly to the job site where ASSE members work.

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