ANITA BROUGHTON, EIT, CIH, is a human health risk assessor at Haley & Aldrich, Inc. and a member of the AIHA Risk Assessment Committee and the Product Stewardship Society. She can be reached at abroughton@haleyaldrich.com. MARYANN SANDERS is a toxicologist and product steward at Haley & Aldrich, Inc. and a member of the Product Stewardship Society. Sanders can be reached at msanders@haleyaldrich.com. SCOTT BOSTON, CIH, is a regulatory health specialist at Haley & Aldrich, Inc. and a member of AIHA and the Product Stewardship Society. He can be reached at sboston@haleyaldrich.com.
Team Players Chemical Risk Assessment Yields New Roles for Industrial Hygienists
Let's face it: the days when industrial hygienists were tied to the shop floor are over. Factors contributing to this shift include greater demand for quantitative (as opposed to qualitative) risk estimates to support decisions regarding human health and the environment; increased awareness of chemical risk; and an evolving regulatory landscape. Today, industrial hygienists enjoy a growing number of career opportunities due to their knowledge of the toxicological properties of chemicals used in the workplace and their ability to assess potential exposures.

Concerns about potential chemical exposure extend beyond workers involved in the manufacturing process. The public, especially members of sensitive sub-populations such as children and the elderly, may also be at risk. The public relies on regulators and experts to confirm that products do not harm the health of current or future generations from exposures in homes, communities, and workplaces. These technical professionals—human health risk assessors and product stewards—employ skills similar to those of many industrial hygienists, who can play a significant role in developing health protection regulations and risk assessment guidance. Industrial hygienists can also help manufacturers evaluate chemical exposures throughout the product life cycle and exposures associated with facility decommissioning, property reuse, and redevelopment. PRODUCT STEWARDSHIP Some industrial hygienists find themselves involved in aspects of product stewardship, a discipline that includes evaluating products throughout their life cycles to address health and environmental risks and confirming that regulatory compliance obligations are met. This rapidly evolving area of expertise grew out of concerns about the effects of chemical exposure from products on human health and the environment. These concerns have stimulated the exponential growth of global chemical and product regulations; as consumers become more educated on the contents of products and the choices available, many companies are choosing to regulate their own products. (To support professionals who have a role in product stewardship and sustainability, AIHA created the Product Stewardship Society in 2013. More information is available on the society's website.)
Product stewards may be required to apply health risk assessment guidelines to quantify the multiple potential exposure pathways associated with product use. These assessments support business requirements and consumer demands, and identify the need for product reformulations and regulatory obligations such as warning labels and notifications. In the U.S., regulatory agencies applicable to product stewardship include EPA, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and various state regulatory departments. 
Some states, including California, have established safer consumer product regulations. For example, Proposition 65 requires that businesses notify Californians of significant releases of chemicals into the environment and the presence of significant amounts of chemicals in products, homes, and workplaces. Further, the California Safer Consumer Products regulations require an alternative assessment when a candidate chemical—that is, a chemical that exhibits a “hazard trait and/or an environmental or toxicological endpoint”—is present in certain consumer products. Methylene chloride in paint thinners is one example.
The majority opinion in Industrial Union Department, AFL-CIO, v. American Petroleum Institute et. al. read:
"If ... the odds are one in a billion that a person will die from cancer by taking a drink of chlorinated water, the risk clearly could not be considered significant. On the other hand, if the odds are one in a thousand that regular inhalation of gasoline vapors that are 2% benzene will be fatal, a reasonable person might well consider the risk significant."
An article in the AIHA 75th Anniversary supplement to the September 2014 Synergist that discusses the one-in-a-thousand risk benchmark for OSHA's Permissible Exposure Limits is available in the Synergist archives on the AIHA website (login required).