NIOSH Highlights Morgantown Building's Contributions

Twenty years of research inside the L Building has brought about a Ladder Safety App and advancements in respiratory protection and identifying lung disease.

A new post on the NIOSH Science Blog highlights next week's 20th anniversary of the opening of the L building in Morgantown, W.Va., describing it as a state-of-the-art facility where about 520 NIOSH employees conduct research on the leading edge of science that makes American workplaces safer. Authors RADM Margaret M. Kitt, M.D., MPH, assistant surgeon general and the NIOSH deputy director for Program, and Tanya Headley, MS, health communication specialist in the NIOSH Communications Office, write that the building "facilitated the creation of the Health Effects Laboratory Division, the NIOSH strategic leader in conducting integrated laboratory research into mechanisms of occupational disease and injury."

"Thanks to specialized equipment, state-of-the-art technologies, and dedicated laboratory space afforded by the new building, HELD has advanced the understanding of the complex, often subtle changes at the minutest levels of the body that may predict risk for serious, irreversible health impairments to follow. As only one of thousands of examples, this capability has significantly increased our ability to identify how subtle changes in the capillaries in the finger associated with vibration may signal risk of later numbness and disability for hundreds of thousands of workers who routinely use vibrating power tools such as jackhammers. From this knowledge, and with findings from similarly targeted health-effects research in areas from occupational asthma to nervous-system impairment, NIOSH and partners can and have developed better ways to identify worker populations at potential risk and suggest effective, practical interventions," they explain. "The state-of-the-art facilities have also given NIOSH a head start on leading global research on occupational health concerns that have emerged since 1996, including occupational risk to health-care workers from novel strains of flu and potential occupational risk from new technologies such as nanotechnology, for which precautionary practices should be built into commercial development."

Other activities made possible through the construction of the L Building include these, they write:

  • Engineering Research to Advance Traumatic Injury Prevention
  • NIOSH's Ladder Safety App. The research that for a multimodal indicator safety device that NIOSH developed and patented to assist workers in setting up extension ladders at the proper angle for stability was conducted in the NIOSH Morgantown high bay laboratory in the L Building. This was the first NIOSH mobile phone app.
  • 21st Century Imaging to Identify Occupational Lung Disease
  • Air-Purifying Respirator Research. The building enabled NIOSH's respirator testing and certification program, which is now part of the NIOSH National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory, to significantly improve its evaluation of air-purifying respirator performance.

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