NIEHS's New Strategic Plan: 2012-2017
August 1, 2012 – NIEHS director introduces the 2012-2017 strategic plan for NIEHS, "Advancing Science Improving Health: A Plan for Environmental Health Research." NIEHS, with the help of its stakeholders, lays out a plan that has descriptive strategic themes and 11 goals that are identified as priority areas for the field. As the NIEHS moves forward, our overall goal is to make the institute, including the National Toxicology Program (NTP), the foremost trusted source of environmental health knowledge, leading the field in innovation and the application of research to solve health problems.
Federal agencies collaborate in Tox21 to reduce animal testing
Testing the safety of chemicals is becoming more efficient and less reliant on animals thanks to a federal collaboration known as Tox 21. Tox 21 brings together scientists from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), NIEHS, the National Toxicology Program (NTP), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and most recently the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to test the safety of chemicals using state-of-the-art robotic technology that will reduce the reliance on animal testing.
Gulf Long-term Follow-up Study (GuLF STUDY)
June 2010 – In June 2010 the NIH director asked NIEHS to lead a study on the health of the workers and volunteers most directly involved in responding to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill. That same month NIEHS initiated the Gulf Long-term Follow-up Study (GuLF STUDY), the largest study ever conducted on the potential health effects associated with an oil spill.
Focus on nanotechnology: NIEHS launches NanoHealth Enterprise Initiative and funds other research into health effects of nanomaterials
NIEHS began actively encouraging and funding research into the underlying properties of engineered nanomaterials (ENs) to determine their potential biocompatibility or toxicity to human health. As part of that effort, NIEHS announced the availability of $13 million to study the health and safety of nanomaterials, which are very tiny materials about 100,000 times smaller than the diameter of a single strand of hair. Nanomaterials are used or being considered for use in clothing, pesticides, tires, electronics, medical diagnoses and imaging, and drug delivery. Grants were awarded for the development of reliable tools and approaches to determine the impact on biological systems and health outcomes. NIEHS announced the launch of the NanoHealth Enterprise Initiative in 2008.
Benzene reduces white blood cell and platelet counts
Researchers demonstrated that benzene can significantly reduce white blood cell counts and platelet counts at or below the U.S. occupational standard, particularly among susceptible subpopulations. Benzene is used in some industries to make other chemicals, which, in turn, are used to make plastics, resins, and nylon and synthetic fibers. Benzene is also used to make some types of rubber, lubricants, dyes, detergents, drugs, and pesticides. Benzene-exposed workers with genetic variants in two key metabolizing enzymes may be especially susceptible to benzene toxicity.
Toxicogenomics Research Consortium formed
NIEHS awarded $37 million to five academic research organizations to form a Toxicogenomics Research Consortium with the Institute's own National Center for Toxicogenomics. Building a library of known toxins and the genes they turn "on" or "off " the center seeks to use an array of cloned genes to review chemicals for toxicity. Later, the technology may be used on individual patients to tailor preventive, diagnostic, and treatment methods.