National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

The Division of Respiratory Disease Studies (DRDS) is a multidisciplinary center for research and public health activities directed toward prevention of occupational respiratory diseases. An integrated program of epidemiological, environmental, clinical, and laboratory research is used to investigate the causes of disease and to recommend regulatory changes to diminish the burden of occupational lung disease. DRDS conducts epidemiological studies to assess workers' risk of disease from exposures at mines, mills and other industrial, construction, and agricultural workplaces. Workplace exposure data from regulatory agencies are reviewed and comprehensive industrial hygiene investigations are conducted at targeted worksites to characterize employee exposure to hazardous chemical, physical and biological agents. Clinical studies are performed to evaluate the respiratory effects of occupational exposure, to clarify the mechanisms of human response, and to develop and refine clinical techniques for investigating occupational respiratory diseases. DRDS alerts government agencies to potentially hazardous workplace exposure and disease patterns and recommends specific action. DRDS administers the National Coal Worker's X-ray Surveillance Program and the national Coal Workers' Autopsy Study under the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1969, as amended in 1977. Mandated program activities include certification of X-ray facilities, Mine Plan approvals, B-Reader Examinations, and coordination of processing, storage, and retrieval of files and records from medical examinations. Data is analyzed for trends in the prevalence of miners' lung diseases. other surveillance activities include monitoring of trends in the prevalence of all occupational lung diseases. DRDS conducts basic and applied research in biochemistry, physiology, immunology, pathology, microbiology, pharmacology, and aerosol physics to evaluate the hazards of biologic and chemical agents, to clarify mechanisms of disease caused by these agents, and to develop early markers of respiratory disease. Investigators identify animal models for occupational respiratory disease research, develop and test new laboratory techniques for evaluating the effects of hazardous agents, and characterize hazardous physical and chemical properties of respirable particles. The Division responds to requests from individual workers, unions and employers to investigate exposures and potential health problems at numerous worksites. During these Health Hazard Evaluations, industrial hygienists, physicians, nurses, medical technicians and epidemiologists evaluate reported problems and disseminate findings and recommended strategies for reducing exposure. DRDS provides epidemiological, clinical, and laboratory research training and experience in occupational respiratory diseases by sponsoring positions in the Centers for Disease Control Epidemic Intelligence Service, the NIOSH pulmonary medicine fellowship program, and the National Research Council's Resident Research Associateship program, as well as through DRDS electives for occupational medicine residents and West Virginia University graduate students.
Division of Respiratory Disease Studies
1095 Willowdale Rd.
(304) 285-5749