JAMES D. MCGLOTHLIN, MPH, PhD, CPE, FAIHA, is professor emeritus of Industrial Hygiene and Ergonomics at Purdue University. He can be reached at
Unstable Funding, Part 2

The greatest achievement by NIOSH to date has been to fund the education and training of the next generation of industrial hygiene professionals. My article in the April issue discussed several challenges facing the profession on university campuses, including the difficulties of sustaining industrial hygiene programs in academia because of significant decreases in federal funding for occupational health and safety research; the pending retirement of faculty who came into the profession in the 1970s when OSHA and NIOSH were created; the perception of academic leaders—presidents, provosts, deans, and department heads—that research related to industrial hygiene isn’t valuable; and, most important, the threatened elimination of NIOSH’s Education and Research Centers (ERCs) and Training Program Grants (TPGs), which support student funding to study and practice industrial hygiene.

Nearly all students who graduate from these university programs are hired to work in industry, government, labor, and academia. Each year, 18 ERCs and 8 TPGs graduate dozens of students with baccalaureate (BS), Master of Science (MS), and Master of Public Health (MPH) degrees in industrial hygiene. Also, NIOSH funds PhD students with a focus in industrial hygiene. These students graduate to teach at universities, conduct research for the government, and direct programs for industry and labor. This steady supply of industrial hygiene practitioners and researchers has enabled the profession to maintain its high degree of scientific integrity. In addition, the cadre of IH-educated and -trained students has helped replace many senior industrial hygienists who have retired or are approaching retirement age and are working part time. SUPPLY AND DEMAND Unfortunately, while the demand for industrial hygienists remains high, the supply of talent may come to an end if NIOSH loses one of its most significant contributions to occupational safety and health. The Obama administration proposed eliminating funding to university ERCs and TPGs multiple times, and the Trump administration is likely to follow suit. This time, concerted opposition by AIHA, ABIH, and other groups might not be enough to save these programs.
Why would a president propose to eliminate funding for the academic institutions that nurture the next generation of safety and health professionals? The answer at the 18,000-foot level is simple—the growing federal deficit—but the history of the ERCs also comes into play. ERCs were originally supposed to be funded for only five years before the universities were to take over and self-fund these programs in perpetuity. However, when then-NIOSH Director Dr. J. Donald Millar expanded the number of ERCs in the 1980s, state senators and congressmen began lobbying for continued funding because it was good for their state universities and constituents. In retrospect, Dr. Millar’s expansion of the ERCs was a brilliant strategic move because it amplified the impact of higher education nationwide for the occupational safety and health profession.
The Fight to Fund Industrial Hygiene Programs at Academic Institutions