Institutes and Research Divisions
National Institute of
Environmental Health Sciences


Human health and disease result from three interactive elements: environmental exposures, individual susceptibility, and time. The NIEHS mission is to reduce the burden of human illness and dysfunction from environmental exposures by understanding each element and how they interrelate. NIEHS achieves its mission through multidisciplinary biomedical research programs, prevention and intervention efforts, and communication strategies that encompasses training, education, technology transfer, and community outreach.

The institute has initiated clinical programs that bring the results from the laboratory more quickly to the bedside, and has strengthened its programs in prevention to address the problems associated with environmental equity. NIEHS supports training in environmental toxicology, pathology, mutagenesis, epidemiology and biostatistics, with emphasis on attracting women and minorities. The institute also funds basic and applied research on the health effects of human exposure to potentially toxic or harmful environmental agents.

In its research, NIEHS attempts to learn:

Program output is intended to aid those agencies and organizations, public and private, responsible for developing and instituting regulations, policies, and procedures to prevent and reduce the incidence of environmentally induced diseases.


Important Events in NIEHS History June 27, 1958--"The advancement of Medical Research and Education," the Bayne-Jones Report, recommended the extension of research related to numerous environmental factors.

June 7, 1960--The study group on the PHS Mission and Organization final report stated that environmental health problems would require increased public and private effort, and predicted that a central laboratory facility would be needed.

January 1961--A proposal prepared by PHS recommended the establishment of an environmental health center.

November 1, 1961--The Committee on Environmental Health Problems recommended to PHS that a national center be established to undertake integrated research and other activities related to environmental health.

September 1964--Congress authorized planning funds for a central environmental health research facility.

January 7, 1965--The Surgeon General announced, following a site selection committee's recommendation, that Research Triangle Park in North Carolina would be the location of the National Environmental Health Sciences Center.

April 13, 1965--A National Environmental Health Advisory Committee group recommended to the Surgeon General that the proposed center be operated by PHS.

November 1, 1966--The Surgeon General announced the establishment of the Division of Environmental Health Sciences as a part of NIH.

September 26, 1967--The deed for 509.25 acres within Research Triangle Park, N.C., to serve as a permanent site for the Division of Environmental Health Sciences was presented to the Surgeon General.

January 12, 1969--The DHEW secretary elevated the division to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

April 1972--The first edition of Environmental Health Perspectives, an NIEHS scientific journal, was issued.

February 1977--First construction contracts were let to begin the south campus facility of NIEHS in Research Triangle Park.

April 1977--Construction was begun on NIEHS' $65.7 million facility.

November 15, 1978--HEW Secretary Joseph A. Califano announced the establishment of the National Toxicology Program.

October 4, 1979--First group of NIEHS employees moved to the support services center on the south campus.

April 4, 1981--Administrative offices in modules A and B of Building 101 were occupied.

July 14, 1981--HHS Secretary Schweiker approved the reorganization of NIEHS. The NCI Division of Cancer Cause and Prevention bioassay program transferred to NIEHS, and four program areas were established: intramural research; extramural research; biometry and risk assessment; and toxicology research and testing.

October 5, 1981--The National Toxicology Program was made a permanent activity of DHHS.

November 15, 1982--The NIEHS permanent facility in Research Triangle Park was dedicated.

November 20, 1985--NIEHS was established in law by the Health Research Extension Act of 1985 (P.L. 99-158).

December 3-5, 1986--NIEHS observed its 20th anniversary with a 2-day science seminar and commemorative program.

April 9, 1987--Part H, Chapter HN (NIH): Statement of Organization, Functions, and Delegations of Authority for DHHS, as amended, revises the titles of NIEHS programs as divisions: Intramural Research; Extramural Research and Training; Toxicology Research and Testing; and Biometry and Risk Assessment.

July 6, 1993--A notice of NIEHS reorganization appeared in the Federal Register. The structure lists the Division of Intramural Research (made up of the Environmental Biology Program, the Environmental Carcinogenesis Program, and the Environmental Toxicology Program) and the Division of Extramural Research and Training.

October 10, 1994--Dr. Martin Rodbell, NIEHS scientist emeritus and former scientific director, was named corecipient of the 1994 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work in discovering G-proteins, which transmit signals between cells.

September 14, 1994--NIEHS and collaborators at the University of Utah announced identification of the first breast cancer gene, BRCA1.

May 12, 1995--NIEHS announced isolation and cloning of a gene that suppresses the spread of prostate cancer.

October 11, 1995--Dr. Mario Molina, an NIEHS grantee, was named cowinner of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for work on atmospheric ozone.

Director's of NIEHS

NameDate of Birth Dates of Office
Paul Kotin.........................Nov. 1, 1966Feb. 28, 1971
David P. Rall.........................Mar. 1, 1971Oct. 1, 1990
David G. Hoel (Acting).........................October 1990June 1991
Kenneth Olden.........................June 18, 1991.........................

Biographical Sketch of NIEHS Director Kenneth Olden, Ph.D.

Dr. Olden was appointed NIEHS director on June 18, 1991. He came to the institute from Howard University College of Medicine in Washington, D.C., where he had been director of the university's cancer center, and professor and chairman of the medical school department of oncology since 1985.

Prior to his appointment at Howard, he was a research scientist from 1974 to 1979 in the NCI Division of Cancer Biology and Diagnosis. Before coming to NIH, Dr. Olden spent 4 years as a research fellow and instructor of physiology at Harvard Medical School.

Dr. Olden received his B.S. in biology in 1960 from Knoxville College, his M.S. in 1964 from the University of Michigan, and his Ph.D., in 1970 from Temple University in Philadelphia.

Born in Parrottsville, Tenn., he has written many basic science articles, and while at Howard medical center, held a number of grants from NIH. He published two of the "One Hundred Most Cited" papers in 1978-79, one of which--on the subject of cancer cell biology--is now a "Citation Classic."

In addition to being NIEHS director, Dr. Olden is also director of the NTP, a cooperative effort within HHS to strengthen the federal science base in toxicology and to coordinate the toxicological research and testing activities of the four PHS agencies.


Major Programs

Protecting the general health of Americans and preventing environmentally related diseases are recognized government responsibilities. The NIEHS through its research programs is providing a health science base for prevention and control activities. In doing this, the institute focuses not on specific body organs or diseases but on agents and processes--the ways and means through which man's health can be adversely affected by chemical and physical agents in the environment.

Population expansion and growth of technology have increased environmental contamination problems. New forms of energy production, expanded uses of plastics and aerosols, and greater development of the chemical industry pose the problem of releasing toxic chemicals into the environment. Recent experiences with asbestos, mercury, vinyl chloride, bischloromethyl ether, methyl butyl ketone, sulfuric acid mist, polychlorinated and polybrominated biphenyls, kepone, dioxins, methylisocy-anate, and chlorophenol indicate these compounds are not theoretical threats but real causes of illness and death.

The institute consists of the Divisions of Intramural Research; Extramural Research and Training; and Toxicology Research and Testing.

The Division of Extramural Research and Training

supports investigators at colleges, universities, and research foundations through individual research grants, program project grants and other support mechanisms. These research activities provide information essential to an understanding of the way in which human health is adversely affected by chemical, physical and other environmental factors. The breadth of the institute's mission dictates a multidisciplinary approach to problem solving which involves major biological, chemical, and physical science disciplines.

The division develops priorities and funding levels to assure maximum utilization of available resources. It maintains an awareness of national research efforts and assesses the need for research and research training in environmental health and provides advisory support to the institute in the development of the research grant policy. Through this division, the institute supports basic and applied research on the consequences of the exposure of humans to potentially toxic or harmful agents in the environment.

For administrative purposes, the research is divided into: 1) biological response to environmental agents 2) applied toxicological research and testing 3) biometry and risk estimation and 4) resource and manpower development. Research and training may span one, several, or all program areas.

Environmental Health Sciences Centers

These centers provide core support to facilitate multidisciplinary research in environmental health problems. They fill critical needs in the national environmental health program that cannot be met by individual research grants or program project grants. Each center has a different thrust and problem orientation. Overall, they serve as national focal points and resources for research and manpower development in health problems related to air, water and food pollution occupational and industrial health and safety heavy metal toxicity agricultural chemical hazards and the relationships of environment to cancer, birth defects, behavioral anomalies, respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, and diseases of other organs.

Much of the research conducted by the centers, in addition to substantive contributions to preventive medicine, has served to clarify the scope of environmental health problems and future needs in this field.

Marine and Freshwater Biomedical Sciences Centers

MFBS centers foster multidisciplinary research on marine and freshwater organisms in the study of mechanisms of toxicity of environmental agents, as models for human diseases and disorders resulting from exposure to environmental toxicants.

Research Manpower Development Programs

Research manpower development programs support pre- and postdoctoral training in toxicology, pathology, mutagenesis, and epidemiology and biostatistics as they pertain to the environment. Three mechanisms are used to fund training: 1) institutional awards for pre- and postdoctoral trainees (training programs), 2) individual awards for postdoctoral fellows only (fellowship awards), and 3) senior fellowship awards to support training for new research oriented physician-researchers to enhance the teaching of environmental and occupational medicine. The division uses the environmental/occupational medicine academic award for curriculum and institutional resource development.

The Superfund Basic Research Program is university-based basic research supported by NIEHS as part of the 1986 Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act. It combines basic research in the fields of ecology, engineering, and hydrogeology into a core program of biomedical research to provide a broader and more detailed body of scientific information to be used in decisionmaking related to the management of hazardous substances.


NIEHS Appropriations -- Grants and Direct Operations
[Amounts in thousands of dollars]

Total Grants
Direct Operations
1982 50,035 56,235106,270
1Includes transfer of $11,068,000 to Bureau of Disease Prevention and Environmental Control.
2No appropriation available. This figure is the amount authorized.

The Division of Intramural Research (DIR)

Plans and conducts basic, applied, and clinical research directed toward increasing fundamental knowledge of environmentally related diseases and disorders. Broad multidisciplinary research approaches are used including basic mechanistic studies at the cellular and molecular level, applied toxicology testing, and clinical and epidemiology studies. Intramural scientists address such complex research issues as genetic susceptibility, receptor mediated pathobiol-ogy, differentiation and development, signal transduction, environmental regulation of cell proliferation and cell death, environmental carcinogenesis and mutagenesis, and environmental epidemiology.

These research endeavors, in turn, support specific biomedical and clinical program interests of the institute such as environmental contributions to aging and age-related diseases and conditions (e.g., neurodegener-ative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, osteoporosis, cancer of the breast, prostate, endometrium and lung), environmental factors and respiratory disease (e.g., asthma and respiratory fibrosis), environmental contribution to reproductive and developmental disorders (e.g., infertility, abnormal growth and development, reproductive senescence), and environmental factors and integrated organ systems (e.g., abnormal sexual development, hypersensitivity, and immune suppression).

The DIR pursues its scientific goals principally through its laboratories and branches in three scientific programs: the Environmental Biology and Medicine Program, the Environmental Carcinogenesis Program, and the Environmental Toxicology Program. In addition, a number of interdisciplinary program projects, clinical studies and international collaborative research projects have been established to address high priority research areas.