NIOSH Chief Marks 50 Years of Respiratory Research

Now the Respiratory Health Division, the lab in Morgantown has made great impacts in addressing occupational respiratory disease issues by working in partnership with industry, labor, academia, government agencies, and others, Director Dr. John Howard reports in his latest newsletter.

The new From the Director's Desk newsletter (July 2017) from NIOSH Director Dr. John Howard begins with an item celebrating 50 years of respiratory research at the agency's facility in Morgantown, W.Va. In 1967 the Appalachian Laboratory for Occupational Respiratory Disease was established under the U.S. Public Health Service and became part of NIOSH four years later; in 1977, the lab was renamed the Division of Respiratory Disease Studies, which is now the Respiratory Health Division, he explains.

The research done there was transformed by both the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969 (the Coal Act) and the OSH Act, with the Coal Act assigning official responsibilities for work to prevent coal miners' lung diseases and the OSH Act and affiliation with NIOSH expanding the lab's mission to advance prevention of work-related respiratory disease, Howard writes: "This also continues be a very important focus for NIOSH, since work-related respiratory disease continues to be one of the most important work-related health issues.

"Over the years," he adds, "NIOSH has made great impacts in addressing occupational respiratory disease issues by working in partnership with industry; labor; academia; federal, state, and local government agencies; and others." He lists these as examples:

  • Assisting workplaces through the Health Hazard Evaluation Program
  • Providing health surveillance to coal miners
  • Tracking the burden of work-related respiratory disease through a program of national surveillance and partnerships with states
  • Conducting innovative research addressing many respiratory hazards, including coal mine dust, silica, nylon flock, flavoring chemicals, indium, beryllium, and indoor environmental quality
  • Ensuring that the nation has access to tools for identifying occupational respiratory disease, including classification of chest radiographs and high quality spirometry

Howard writes that NIOSH will co-sponsor an occupational respiratory symposium Aug. 10 with West Virginia University, "a long-time partner celebrating its own 25th anniversary of the WVU Occupational Medicine Training Program." The symposium from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. will be held in the Fukushima Auditorium at WVU's Health Sciences Center in Morgantown; visit this page for more information and to RSVP by July 21.

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