NIOSH Clarifies Its Asbestos Roadmap for Research and State of the Science



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In April 2011, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) released a revised edition of its Current Intelligence Bulletin 62 entitled, ?Asbestos Fibers and Other Elongate Mineral Particles: State of the Science and Roadmap for Research.?  In the bulletin, NIOSH explains that ?it is now well documented that asbestos fibers, when inhaled, can cause serious diseases in exposed workers.  However, many questions and areas of confusion and scientific uncertainty remain.?  Among the uncertainty is NIOSH?s consideration of asbestos fibers with other elongate mineral particles (EMP).  With regard to asbestos, NIOSH recommends exposures to be reduced to the ?lowest feasible concentration.?  However, the recommended exposure limit (REL) for airborne asbestos fibers remains at 0.1 ?minerals? per cubic centimeter, averaged over 100 minutes.

NIOSH points out that although the mining of asbestos in the United States ceased in 2002, a roadmap outlining a research agenda will help guide the development of research projects in order to lead to a clearer understanding of the toxicity of asbestos fibers.  With regard to asbestos, NIOSH suggests research that focuses on:

  • The important dimensional and physiochemical determinants of pathogenicity,
  • EMPs such as erionite and a development of a deeper understanding of their toxicity, and
  • Methods that can differentiate EMPs and quantify airborne exposures to EMPs.

The results of NIOSH?s research roadmap could impact asbestos litigation, especially as dimensional characteristics of asbestos and the toxicity of EMPs are better understood.

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