DAVID ROSKELLEY, MSPH, CIH, CSP, is a member of JIHEEC and of the ABIH Board of Directors. He can be reached at or (801) 541-1035. Acknowledgement: Jeffrey Throckmorton, CIH, MSPH, member and past chair of JIHEEC, also contributed to this article. He can be reached at or (801) 205-7900.
Code vs. Code When Ethical Principles Conflict, Which One Takes Precedence?
An individual at the ABIH Board Forum at AIHce 2015 asked a question regarding the ABIH Code of Ethics and how it might apply to a CIH who is also an attorney. The individual was concerned that “attorney-client privilege” might “trump” the ABIH Code of Ethics under certain circumstances. It’s an intriguing and somewhat nuanced question. Indeed, does one code trump the other? Can they coexist? I was hesitant to respond. I’m a member of the ABIH Board of Directors, but I’m not an attorney, nor do I play one on TV. However, thinking about the possible answers to this question can help us reflect on the application of ethics in our profession. The easy answer, and the one I feel is most important, is that CIHs have an obligation to protect the health and well-being of those we serve. The preamble to the ABIH Code of Ethics states, “First and foremost, ABIH certificants and candidates give priority to health and safety interests related to the protection of people.” This is similar to the Hippocratic Oath taken by new physicians: “I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.” As health and safety professionals, we have a duty to champion the worker the same way a doctor champions his or her patients—even if doing so conflicts with other ethical codes. Anything less should not be tolerated.
Editor's note: California followed suit in September, announcing its intention to list glyphosate as a carcinogen under Proposition 65.
Opposition to the use of Agent Orange in Vietnam was part of my motivation to move from chemistry to toxicology, and the insecticide parathion was part of my post-doctoral project. And I claim expertise (or at least experience) in this process by serving on two IARC working groups, and on National Toxicology Program (NTP) peer review groups for bioassay reports, the criteria for evaluating those bioassay reports, and the Report on Carcinogens (ROC).
- Frank Mirer
IARC Monographs Volumes 112 and 113 address insecticides and herbicides. They classify lindane as known to be carcinogenic to humans (Group 1); DDT, malathion, and diazinphos as probably carcinogenic (Group 2A); and 2,4-D, tetrachlorvinphos and parathion as possibly carcinogenic (Group 2B). Although few IHs work in agriculture, we are likely to get questions about pesticide use in homes and, regarding glyphosate, on our lawns.
- Frank Mirer