Marking a major milestone, the National Toxicology Program (NTP) acclaims its common goals and collaborative research with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). This year is the 50th anniversary of NIOSH, which was created by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.
NTP, formed in 1978, is an interagency program among three agencies within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:
- NIOSH of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- National Center for Toxicological Research of the Food and Drug Administration.
“The NTP partnership, including NIOSH, works well because we have common goals,” said NIEHS and NTP Director Rick Woychik, Ph.D. “At NIEHS, we strive to prevent disease and disability — objectives that fit well with the NIOSH mandate to promote and enhance healthful working conditions across the nation.”
Adjusting to changing workplace
“This anniversary provides us with a unique opportunity to reflect, not just on the past year, but the past 50 years, while also looking at what the future holds,” said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D., now in his third six-year term.
“The last year has shown us how fast the look and feel of work, the workplace, and the workforce can change,” he said. “As we have over the past 50 years, NIOSH continues to adapt, to ensure our research programs are responsive to the health and safety challenges that workforces and workplaces face, both now and in the future.”
“Over many years, an important aspect of the partnership has been the ability of NIOSH to provide a human relevance for [certain] toxicology studies,” said NTP Associate Director Brian Berridge, D.V.M., Ph.D., scientific director of the NIEHS Division of NTP (DNTP). “This relevance aids transfer of environmental health research findings and innovative technologies into practice.”
NIOSH collaborates with NTP partners to conduct research relevant to the workplace. Scientific evidence discovered through the partnership can inform the work of regulatory agencies and public decision-making.
Many significant public health findings have been discovered through NIOSH participation in NTP cooperative research. One example is the latex glove project, which occurred before the current awareness of latex allergy and its effects on health care workers. Results led to production of gloves made from alternative material.
Another example concerns NTP work to understand the public’s exposure to mold and health effects that may result(https://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/whatwestudy/topics/mold/#studies). Rather than rely on animal models in laboratories, NIOSH stepped in and developed a system to assess potential health effects following exposure to molds at levels found in water-damaged buildings.
NTP and NIOSH have also collaborated on testing fumes related to asphalt paving or roofing and metal welding. These collaborations identified health effects associated with exposures and facilitated development of workplace safety controls.
Dori Germolec, Ph.D., DNTP immunotoxicologist, has led interagency agreements with NIOSH over recent years. Germolec shared some of the benefits of the NTP-NIOSH partnership.
- Good use of resources with less overlap.
- Information on workplace exposures and measures of priority agents of mutual interest.
- Guiding decision-making for epidemiologic studies and testing priorities.
- Placing real-world context on NTP testing efforts.
Ongoing NTP studies with NIOSH include researching potentially harmful exposures for workers at facilities that manufacture nanomaterials(https://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/whatwestudy/topics/nano/). These materials — used in electronics, medicine, and other fields — are approximately 100,000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair. Health risks to people are largely unknown.
The organizations are also conducting cooperative studies on exposure levels and health effects of flame retardants and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS.
See pages 66-75 of the NTP Annual Report for Fiscal Year 2019 (https://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/annualreport/2019/annualreport_508.pdf) for detailed descriptions.
Croston TL, Nayak AP, Lemons AR, Goldsmith WT, Gu JK, Germolec DR, Beezhold DH, Green BJ. 2016. Influence of Aspergillus fumigatus conidia viability on murine pulmonary microRNA and mRNA expression following subchronic inhalation exposure. Clin Exp Allergy 46(10):1315–1327.
Hines, CJ, Jackson MV, Deddens JA, Clark JC, Ye X, Christianson AL, Meadows JW, Calafat AM. 2017. Urinary bisphenol A (BPA) concentrations among workers in industries that manufacture and use BPA in the USA. Ann Work Expo Health 61(2):164–182.
National Toxicology Program (https://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/ntp/ohat/oeccaaho/mgraph/occchemo_final20190300_508.pdf). 2019. NTP Monograph on the Systematic Review of Occupational Exposure to Cancer Chemotherapy Agents and Adverse Health Outcomes. NTP Monograph 5. Research Triangle Park, NC: National Toxicology Program (5):1–200.
Nayak AP, Green BJ, Lemons AR, Marshall NB, Goldsmith WT, Kashon ML, Anderson SE, Germolec DR, Beezhold DH. 2016. Subchronic exposures to fungal bioaerosols promotes allergic pulmonary inflammation in naive mice. Clin Exp Allergy 46(6):861–870.
(Carol Kelly is managing editor for the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison.)