Regulatory Research Agencies


Last updated: December 6, 2007

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) was established under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 and is “responsible for conducting research and making recommendations for the prevention of work-related illnesses and injuries.” NIOSH is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) within the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

NIOSH is not a regulatory agency (unlike the similarly-named Occupational Safety and Health Administration). Rather, NIOSH is vested with the congressional mandate to:

  • “develop recommendations for health and safety standards”
  • “develop information on safe levels of exposure to toxic materials and harmful physical agents and substances”
  • “conduct research on new safety and health problems”
  • “conduct on-site investigations … to determine the toxicity of materials used in workplaces”
  • “fund research by other agencies or private organizations through grants, contracts, and other arrangements”

Animal Use Activities

NIOSH operates extensive research programs “to prevent or reduce work-related injury and illness.” The Institute’s intramural research activities are divided among nearly a dozen decentralized program divisions, such as the Health Effects Laboratory and Division of Respiratory Disease Studies, in West Virginia, and the Division of Surveillance, Hazard Evaluations, and Field Studies and Division of Applied Research and Technology, in Ohio.

In addition, NIOSH and more than 500 extramural partners established in 1996 a National Occupational Research Agenda to guide research efforts in 21 priority areas, including allergic and irritant dermatitis, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, fertility and pregnancy abnormalities, infectious diseases, cancer research methods, emerging technologies, and risk assessment methods. NIOSH has also recently embarked on a five-year, multidisciplinary study into the toxicity and health risks associated with occupational exposure to nanoscale materials.

A number of ongoing projects clearly involve the development and use of in vivo toxicological models; however, such studies appear to be a minority in the overall NIOSH research program.


Alternatives Policies & Actions

NIOSH does not appear to have a written policy on animal welfare or the 3Rs; however, a significant proportion of intramural and extramural research projects are non-animal in nature, such as human epidemiology, biomonitoring and field studies, and computerized structure-activity relationship modeling. NIOSH is also a member of the US Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Validation of Alternative Methods (ICCVAM).