In the February Synergist, Paul J. Middendorf, John Piacentino, and Rene Pana-Cryan wrote about the changing landscape of industrial hygiene and demands on practitioners (see “The Changing Worlds of Work and Health”). The article illustrates a key truth about industrial hygiene: the breadth and depth of our profession can carry a practitioner from a legacy exposure challenge involving workers in “dusty trades” to the offices of international corporations seeking to ensure their business sustainability.
Three years ago, the AIHA Board of Directors formed the Content Portfolio Management Team (CPMT) to identify, develop, and promote critical content essential for the changing industrial hygiene landscape. The CPMT’s work led to the Body of Knowledge (BoK) process that is currently being used for a number of projects. One of the BoKs under development will address the topic of risk. (For more information about the BoKs, see “This Is How We Do It” in the March issue.)
This article is the first in a series that will discuss the process through which AIHA members are promoting risk in professional judgments. When completed, the risk-related BoK will expand the capabilities of exposure assessment professionals by incorporating risk characterization, risk communication, and risk management. BACKGROUND In 2006, AIHA’s Exposure Assessment Strategies Committee (EASC) published the 3rd edition of A Strategy for Assessing and Managing Occupational Exposures. (This publication is available from the AIHA Store.) The EASC’s declared purpose was to promote an exposure assessment program to comprehensively approach all agents of harm-causing exposures to all employees all the time. Given the limited number of authoritative occupational exposure limits (OELs) and the difficulty of establishing new OELs, today’s IH practitioners often face the challenge of deciding against what to compare our exposure assessments. Options to authoritative OELs include REACH Derived No Effects Levels (DNELs) and occupational exposure banding/control banding.
The 4th edition of A Strategy for Assessing and Managing Occupational Exposures will be released at AIHce 2015 in Salt Lake City. This latest edition emphasizes methods of characterizing exposure profiles and addresses the potential limitations of relying on “professional judgment” when we have limited data—a common challenge for our profession, where limited data sets tend to be the norm. Typically, IHs compare the exposure profile with an OEL and decide whether the exposure is acceptable, unacceptable, or uncertain.
But is an OEL comparison sufficient? Does an OEL comparison allow effective risk (not hazard) communication to the breadth of stakeholders we engage? Is it appropriate to constrain an assessment of risk to the occupational domain, when non-occupational exposures and stressors may be more significant?
Shifting​ the Conve​rsation Opportunities and Challenges in Exposure and Risk Science
RISK CHARACTERIZATION AND DECISION OPTIONS The core team working on the Risk Assessment/Exposure Assessment (RA/EA) BoK recognizes that exposure assessment is a subset of risk assessment but has also found it challenging to reduce human health risk assessment to a simple linear process. While conventional workplace exposure assessment in the occupational sense is well established as part of the four-step risk assessment paradigm (hazard assessment, dose/response assessment, exposure assessment, risk characterization), the process for characterizing relevant risk and developing a statement of risk for management decisions is not so straightforward.
In its 2009 publication Science and Decisions: Advancing Risk Assessment, the National Research Council argues that the assessment of risk must not be performed in a vacuum but rather with a preconceived purpose and audience in mind. A risk assessment conducted for the express purpose of compliance is unlikely to be of much use in support of an epidemiological study, for example. In addition, relevant risk characterization statements can be confounded by differing perspectives, questions about cumulative exposures, and personal and cultural beliefs. 
To help shift the discussion of exposures to relative and cumulative risk, the BoK core team is completing a list of knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) that serve industrial hygiene practitioners across their career paths. KSAs will form the basis of new content that professionals at all levels—from apprentice to master—can use to determine what they need to know at each stage of their careers. A VISION FOR HOLISTIC EXPOSURE AND RISK SCIENCE AIHA members play a vital role with respect to human exposure science and risk assessment. But AIHA is not alone in pursuit of better judgments in risk analysis and management. Here are a few groups who share a common interest in the interface between exposure science and risk assessment:
International Society for Exposure Science (ISES). ISES interests relate to public health exposure assessment and risk management. A recent course presented by ISES promoted a holistic view of risk in ecological, environmental, public, and occupational health.
Society for Risk Analysis (SRA). The most recent SRA meeting, in December 2014, featured eight sessions dedicated to occupational health and safety exposure assessment, modeling, and risk characterization.
Society of Toxicology (SoT). Recently, SoT created the Occupational and Public Health Specialty Section. CHALLENGES BEFORE THE EXPOSURE ASSESSMENT COMMUNITY In its 2012 publication Exposure Science in the 21st Century: A Vision and a Strategy, the National Research Council acknowledged the critical role industrial hygienists play in the demanding and complicated discipline of exposure science. Within our science-based profession, AIHA members must provide support across several disciplines (toxicology, industrial hygiene, safety, and public health) to individuals at various career stages (student, apprentice, journeyman, expert, and master). But one trait unites all industrial/occupational hygienists: ultimately, we are all assessing exposures and their corresponding risks.​
Those risks may be framed in terms of health, finance, or compliance for the individual, society, or business. Our near-term challenge is to deliver content that conveys to practitioners how they may advance their knowledge of exposure assessment and risk characterization—and how to use that knowledge to answer the questions of our broad and growing audience. OPPORTUNITIES IN RISK ASSESSMENT/EXPOSURE ASSESSMENT Collaboration across organizations has already begun. Following publication of Exposure Science in the 21st Century, communications with federal U.S. agencies and with non-governmental associations focused on synchronizing work and integrating similar ideas.
AIHA is actively developing the RA/EA BoK. Watch for RA/EA BoK presentations at AIHce 2015 as well as communiqués from the AIHA Board. These will be followed by solicitations for developing educational information for potential use in undergraduate and graduate courses. THE VALUE OF INTEGRATION There is broad professional and public interest in the topics of exposure assessment, risk characterization, risk communication, and risk management. Many organizations also see value in integrating exposure and risk across occupational, ecological, environmental, and public health domains. As a result, there are many opportunities for collaboration to address these challenges. Additional reporting on the development of the RA/EA BoK will occur in future issues of The Synergist. STEVEN JAHN, CIH, is a technical advisor for Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, LLC in Aiken, S.C. He can be reached at,, or (803) 557-4361. FRED BOELTER, CIH, PE, BCEE, FAIHA, is principal at ENVIRON International in Chicago. He can be reached at or (312) 288-3820.
Relevant risk characterization statements can be confounded by differing perspectives, questions about cumulative exposures, and personal and cultural beliefs.