Mary S. Lopez, PhD, CPE & Michael J. Ellenbecker, ScD, CIH – ACGIH Chair & Immediate Past Chair – The Science of Guidelines and Standards

Air Date: 6-26-2020|Episode 591

This week we welcome ACGIH Chair Mary Lopez, PhD, CPE and Immediate Past Chair Mike Ellenbecker, ScD, CIH to Iaqradio+. Our topic is how scientific organizations like ACGIH develop guidelines such as Threshold Limit Values using science as driving force behind development. Guidelines and standards are developed by many organizations lets look at how one of the most respected organizations in the world does it.

COL (Ret) Mary S. Lopez, PhD, CPE
Dr. Lopez retired from military service after 33 years as an Army officer. She currently serves as the Chair, ACGIH Physical Agents Committee. Dr. Lopez has been an active member of the ACGIH PAC since 2004, serving as a subject matter expert in Ergonomics and Human Factors, and as Vice Chair (2005-2010) and Chair (2010-2018). She has served on the ACGIH Board of Directors since 2019 and was elected ACGIH Board Chair for 2020. She is a Certified Professional Ergonomist (CPE) and a licensed Occupational Therapist.
Colonel (Retired) Mary S. Lopez graduated from San Jose State University with a bachelor’s degree in Occupational Therapy and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army. She completed the OT internship at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, DC. COL(R) Lopez holds a Master of Health Administration from Baylor University and a PhD in Industrial Engineering—Human Factors and Ergonomics from Texas A&M University. She has held a variety of positions in her assignments at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Letterman Army Medical Center, Fort Ord, Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Riley, the Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine, the Uniformed Services University, and the Office of the Surgeon General, and the Europe Regional Medical Command.
Michael J. Ellenbecker, ScD, CIH
Committed to improving the health and well-being of workers exposed to chemical and physical agents in their work environment, Dr. Ellenbecker, now Professor Emeritus, for almost thirty years taught occupational hygiene in the Department of Work Environment at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. In his continuing role as co-Director of TURI, he manages a staff of fifteen and has guided the Institute’s research program from its inception in 1989. In addition to TURI’s mission, Dr. Ellenbecker’s research interests include aerosol science, ventilation system design, and evaluating occupational and environmental exposures to engineered nanoparticles. He is co-author of “Ventilation for Control of the Work Environment,” the standard textbook for the design of industrial exhaust systems, and “Exposure Assessment and Safety Considerations for Working with Engineered Nanoparticles”. Harvard-educated, he holds Doctoral and Master degrees in Environmental Health Sciences and Industrial Hygiene and is a Certified Industrial Hygienist.
Z-Man’s Blog:
Science, guidelines and standards
COL (Ret) Mary S. Lopez, PHD, CPE the 2020 Chair of the ACGIH, Michael J. Ellenbocker, ScD, CIH immediate past ACGIH Chair and Frank Mortl III, CAE Executive Director of ACGIH guested on today’s episode of IAQradio.
Nuggets mined from today’s episode:
Mary- The US Army uses ACGIH for guidance on heat exposure, chemical exposure, lasers, vibration, etc. Mary became involved with ACGIH when she was invited to join the group’s ergonomics committee. She is a passionate supporter of ACGIH because it is the only organization in the world that makes recommendations based on science. ACGIH only looks at the science. ACGIH does not have regulatory authority. ACGIH does make an important contribution by protecting worker health.
Mike- After becoming a CIH in 1982, Mike joined ACGIH. At that time membership was restricted to government industrial hygienists. ACGIH is a small and important organization. “ACGIH® publishes guidelines known as Threshold Limit Values (TLVs®) and Biological Exposure Indices (BEIs®) for use by industrial hygienists in making decisions regarding safe levels of exposure to various chemical and physical agents found in the workplace.”
ACGIH’s work protects workers and the general public. It is important for scientists to step forward and do volunteer work for ACGIH. ACGIH’s guidelines are intended for use by trained people. ACGIH does not suggest that their TLVs and BEIs be used as legal standards.
Mary- ACGIH’s recommendations are based on science. While ACGIH has no enforcement authority; ACGIH’s TLVs and BEIs are used by people, organizations and countries as standards.
Mike- ACGIH begancreatingworker exposure guidelines in the 1940s. OSHA has only been setting PELs since 1970-71. The PELs set by OSHA are legally enforceable. ACGIH works faster and nimbler than OSHA. While ACGIH gets 25 new or revised TLVs into the hands of IHs annually, OSHA has only set 25 PELs in 50 years.
Mary- ACGIH’s is nimble and responsive to new chemicals and new technologies. OSHA relied upon ACGIH’s work on heat stress. ACGIH’s management consensus process results is a reliable trusted resource based on science.
Mike- TLVs are based on healthy workers (aged 20-60) work and exposures of 8 hours per day and 40 hours per week. When exposures are longer, exposure limits should be lower. TLVs are not applicable to children or people with chronic illness where exposure guidelines would be much lower.
Mary- Underlying factors include changing work environments, workers who have multiple jobs, workers with same exposure at work and at home, etc. “A recommended exposure limit (REL) is an occupational exposure limit that has been recommended by the United States National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.” Wiki NIOSH is the research arm of OSHA.
Mike- Using its field and toxicology study groups, NIOSH makes recommendations to OSHA. OSHA holds hearings on REL’s considering: public input, technical feasibility, and cost. OSHA optimistically projected 10-20 new REL’s annually, and has only done 20 in 50 years. IHs look at PELs, RELs and TLVs and often choose the lowest.
Mary- In addition to PELs, RELs and TLVs the military conducts research. Using military personnel as voluntary subjects.
Mike- No good deed goes unpunished. ACGIH has been a target of litigation when industry disagrees with ACGIH’s guidelines. ACGIH has never lost a litigation.
Mike- ACGIH spreads its research among 3 committees: Chemical Substances, Biological Indices and Physical Agents. The committees are made up of highly qualified volunteer scientists who are each subject matter experts; the scientists work for universities, government and industry. New committee members serve a probationary period before appointment. ACGIH has no budget for research. The committees rely upon published information. Using a consensus approach, the committees meet to review and discuss source information. Information being reviewed remains confidential. Each committee has one lead person. The board has a member who listens to each committee. The board provides oversight without interfering with committee work. The TLV committee has 20 scientists. The Physical Agents and Biological Indices committees each have 12 scientists.
The committees recommend actions to the board. The board reviews and accepts proposed action and then releases intended changes in booklets and on the website. Once publicized, the public has 2 years to respond. Comments are taken seriously by the committee and responded to. After final recommendation is made the information becomes available. There are 600 TLVs and fewer Physical Agents. ACGIH continuously updates old TLVs and develops new ones.
Mary- Serves as a member of the ACGIH’s ergonomics committee. ACGIH uses a uniform process and has the right people and expertise on the committees who can look at the subject through a variety of lenses. The intent of the committee is to publish new guidelines. The guideline publishing process takes several years. Notices of Intent to Establish or Intent to Change. Comment period. Through a detailed careful process with checks and balances, committee members’ feet are held to fire.
Physical Agents Under Study (TLV®-PA)
Note: All substances and issues listed below are as of January 1, 2020, unless otherwise indicated.
  1. Acoustic
    • Audible sound
  2. Electromagnetic Fields 0–300 GHz
  3. Optical Radiation
    • Light and Near-infrared radiation
    • Ultraviolet radiation
  4.  Ergonomics
    • Hand activity
    • Lifting and lowering
    • Hand–arm vibration
    • Upper limb localized fatigue
    • Over shoulder work
    • Push/Pull
  5. Thermal Stress
    • Cold stress
    • Heat stress and strain
Other Issues Under Study
  1. Fatigue and its management in the workplace
  2. Head supported mass and neck loading
  3. Hypobaric pressure
  4. Sensory-induced motion sickness
  5. Personal physiologic monitoring
Mike- The airborne section is biologically driven by interest in mold. There is a lack of good information. There are no TLVs for biological agents. Don Weeks, chairs the rejuvenated committee.
Mary- The physical agents committee has less information to review. Much has already been done on radiation and heat. Heat is a very complex issue. Interactive effects of chemical exposures in hot environments.
Mike- Chemical exposures exacerbate hearing loss. A need to get information out quickly. Must first substantiate the information. When is there enough information?
Mary- ACGIH can quickly publish white papers. ACGIH committee members are the best scientists in their respective fields. For example: Light effects on sleep webinar.,1
There is no formal tie between ACGIH and NIOSH. While NIOSH is able to conduct research studies, ACGIH is not. ACGIH committee volunteers come from NIOSH, academia and industry.
Mike- Join ACGIH to protect workers and the public!
Mary- Thanked listeners for being there to address the complex and troubling issue of Covid19. Please send thoughts and suggestions on Covid19 to ACGIH.
Frank- Praised everyone for the dialogue. The Bioaerosols Committee has hit the ground running and will begin with revising the Biologically Derived Airborne Contaminants (BDAC) section of the TLVs® and BEIs® book. Prolific work on Covid19.
Acknowledged value of Don Weeks. Define your science, ACGIH.
Z-Man signing off
Trivia: In what year was ACGIH’s Threshold Limit Values for Chemical Substances (TLV®-CS) Committee made a Standing Committee?
Answer: 1944, answered by Doug Kohnen ERAtech Environmental Dayton, Ohio