Lindsay E. Booher, CIH, CSP, AIHA president

AIHA Seeks GAO Study of NIOSH's Rightful Place

What to do with NIOSH? That's the essential question of a Feb. 2 letter sent by American Industrial Hygiene Association President Lindsay E. Booher, CIH, CSP, to U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., who chairs the Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Booher asked Kennedy to support a request that the Government Accountability Office study whether NIOSH should remain a part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The roots of the question date to 2004, when then-CDC Director Julie Gerberding proposed moving NIOSH into one of four CDC "coordinating centers." The public health and safety communities worked to defeat that part of her plan, which died thanks to congressional opposition. But fears persist that NIOSH headquarters could be moved and/or its independence further eroded.

Booher's letter notes that NIOSH's budget "is facing a crisis" this year. "NIOSH research funding remains flat and an ever-increasing amount of the budget flows back to CDC for administrative costs," he wrote. "In addition, the Institute is without a permanent director [since] Dr. John Howard was not reappointed to another term last July."

Booher also said AIHA thinks moving NIOSH into the National Institutes of Health would be better than making it part of DOL because NIH has a primary research focus and supports disease prevention research that is vital to working Americans. "NIH already has 27 institutes and Centers under its umbrella and adding NIOSH would allow NIOSH research to take advantage of the many researchers used by NIH," Booher wrote. The idea needs to be researched, so GAO should conduct a study to determine whether NIOSH should remain in CDC or be located elsewhere, he added.

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