A Conversation with ACGIH: Insights in Industrial Hygiene – Part I

ACGIH Industrial Hygiene Blog Abstract Photo Cority

An interview with ACGIH, a 501(c)(3) charitable scientific organization that advances occupational and environmental health. 

Industrial hygiene is the science of anticipating, recognizing, evaluating, and controlling occupational hazards and environmental contaminants. It is a critical part of any organization’s environmental, health, and safety (EHS) program. 

Sean Baldry, Director of Product Marketing at Cority recently sat down with Phillip Rauscher, MPH, CIH, CSP, Interim Executive Director at ACGIH (American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists) to explore how the combined efforts of both organizations lead to safer work environments, improved compliance, and enhanced overall health and well-being for workers across various industries. 

Read on to learn: 

  • Who ACGIH is and how their research and resources benefit industrial hygienists 
  • What research the ACGIH is currently conducting and how industrial hygienists can take advantage of the results 
  • What TLV and BEI changes EHS professionals can look forward to in 2024 

Sean Baldry (SB): Who is the ACGIH? What is your mandate and strategic vision? 

Phillip Rauscher (PR): ACGIH is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in Ohio, USA. For more than 85 years, our mission has been to advance occupational and environmental health by providing education programs, scientific data, and disseminating technical knowledge to EHS professionals on the science behind occupational health, to protect workers and the public. 

Be that ventilation, heat stress, chemical exposures – any of the myriad of hygiene issues that people face in the workplace – we take it upon ourselves to really drive that science and arm EHS professionals with the information they need to keep people safe at work  

SB: ACGIH is best known for their TLV-BEI booklet. Can you explain the difference between how ACGIH comes up with their TLV BEI’s as opposed to other organizations or government bodies? 

PR: First off, we’re not a consensus standard. Even though we solicit feedback from interested parties and our stakeholders, we aren’t necessarily beholden to a unanimous vote of our stakeholders on the standards we publish. This puts us in stark contrast to some other guidelines that are out there. 

We’re also not driven by calculations like some government bodies. The secret behind our Threshold Limit Values (TLV®) lies in the expertise held within our technical committees. Our committees possess hundreds and hundreds of years’ worth of experience in epidemiology, medicine, veterinary science, industrial hygiene, and toxicology. There are people that have not only received their PhD, but then went on to do research in the field for over a decade before they were ever on these committees. 

These committee individuals focus on reviewing the broadest range of available peer-reviewed studies and science. As a result, these experts add a human element to the interpretation of the overall science and are not at the mercy of meeting the interest of any particular stakeholder groups. It’s the science that drives our actions.   

At ACGIH, we really want to highlight the goal that every organization should be shooting for (with respect to occupational exposures), even challenging the field and governmental entities on the results of detailed laboratory analyses and field research. 

SB: I think a clear differentiation point between ACGIH and some of those other consensus standards is that you are very research-oriented. Are there any areas of research the ACGIH is currently exploring that would be of interest to the readership? 

PR: Whether you’re an industrial hygienist, in an occupation tangential to the field, or simply interested in dipping your toe in the industrial hygiene pool, I’d highly recommend you bookmark the ‘Under Study’ page, as well as the ‘Notice of Intended Changes (NIC)’ page on the ACGIH’s website. The Under Study page outlines some of the most interesting research currently conducted at the ACGIH, whereas the NIC page displays impending changes to previously published TLVs and BEIs.

You know, our world is rapidly changing, and that’s changing the nature of our workplaces and the types of exposures individuals face at work. We at the ACGIH are constantly in a race to be at the front of that change.

For instance – We’re in the midst of an opioid crisis in the United States. And one of the most pervasive drugs contributing to that crisis is fentanyl. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid fifty times more powerful than morphine, and it’s unfortunately a big problem in terms of accidental workplace exposure, particularly for law enforcement and EMS professionals. 

And right now, there’s not really any guidance available to help reduce the risk of on-the-job exposure for individuals in these professions other than wearing personal protective equipment (PPE). There’s little idea of how organizations should tackle sampling of a suspected substance, or how it should be cleaned up safely. One of the newest and most recently updated TLVs is for fentanyl, which is very low limit, and for good reason. I’m proud the ACGIH is working on that side of the challenge.

Another area of research we are exploring is on benzene, where overexposure to the chemical is linked with specific blood disorders. This research is particularly important considering how prevalent benzene is in many industrial processes.

We’re also conducting studies on specific endotoxins used in many agricultural pesticides and their potential impacts on human health.

Interested in digitizing? Check out our blog, Why Your Industrial Hygiene Program Needs a Digital Update 

SB: Moving back to the TLV-BEI booklet, are there any kind of notable changes that are coming in terms of TLs or BEI’s (Biological Exposure Indices (BEI®) that organizations should be paying attention to as 2024 approaches?    

PR: As mentioned earlier, I’d suggest organizations interested in learning what’s changing in the TLV-BEI booklet to check out the Under Study List on our website. 

Changes to TLVs and BEIs come much faster than they used to. We now have two comment periods, which means that a TLV (or BEI) can be completely formulated in one year. This means some research areas on the Under Study List may be translated into new or revised TLVs much faster than what people are used to because we’ve tightened up our internal process. 

For example, we recently adopted a TLV for glyphosate – a particularly hot topic. Glyphosate is used extensively in agricultural pesticides and there are rising concerns about its potential impact on human health. 

And there’s a growing debate about the need for these glyphosate-based pesticides – to maximize product yields and improve agriculture efficiency – and the risks that exposure to these products may cause. It’s particularly relevant for industrial hygienists due to the number of lawsuits underway related to this active ingredient. 

Until recently, there wasn’t a number that industrial hygienists could hang their hat to determine whether an exposure to glyphosate was potentially harmful. I’m proud our TLV committee was able to sift through the epidemiological data to come up with one of the first standards that now provides much needed direction in the field. 

We are now looking into what a biological indicator for glyphosate might look like and how we could measure it -meaning if an employee was exposed, is there some sort of indicator that we could measure at the end of a work day or week to learn if that worker was exposed to a higher level of the agent, even if other metrics were to indicate that the business was under the threshold limit value. 

SB: How can people get involved with the ACGIH or learn more? 

PR: I encourage people to keep our website – – in their bookmarks so they can come back to it a few times per year to check our the new research and TLV-BEI updates that we’re releasing. The TLV-BEI booklet is an awesome resource to take with you out into the field, but like a newspaper, the second it’s printed there’s a risk it’s out of date. Since information changes so rapidly, our website is the best place to stay up-to-date on what we’re doing and the most recent changes to the TLVs. We have some great work underway that I believe will be very impactful for organization committed to providing a safer workplace for their employees. 

Industrial hygiene is a critical facet of workplace safety, focusing on the protection of employees from occupational hazards that can result from exposure to various chemicals, contaminants, and physical stressors. In the pursuit of this goal, the ACGIH is working to set rigorous standards and guidelines for industrial hygiene practices. A key player in the realm of occupational health and safety, they not only formulate standards but also collaborate with industry leaders and solution providers to ensure that these standards are effectively implemented.  

One such significant partnership exists with Cority. Together, the ACGIH and Cority have synergized their expertise to empower organizations in safeguarding their workforce and complying with industrial hygiene standards, ensuring safer and healthier workplaces for all. 

Cority’s commitment to supporting ACGIH’s objectives is a testament to the fusion of cutting-edge technology with comprehensive industry guidance.  

This collaborative alliance reflects the importance of seamless integration between expert knowledge and practical solutions, ultimately enabling businesses to navigate the complex landscape of industrial hygiene with confidence. 

Both ACGIH and Cority are dedicated to advancing occupational and environmental health.  

ACGIH’s mission revolves around equipping EHS professionals with scientific knowledge to protect workers and the public from workplace hazards. Their unique approach to setting Threshold Limit Values (TLVs) stands out, relying on the expertise of their technical committees and a deep pool of experience.  

The ACGIH and Cority partnership underscores the commitment to advancing workplace safety through the seamless integration of expert knowledge and practical solutions. ACGIH’s expertise in industrial hygiene standards with Cority’s technological solutions simplifies the application of TLVs, enhances data accessibility, and supports the goal of achieving safer and healthier workplaces by making industrial hygiene more actionable and user-friendly for professionals across various industries. 

Join us as we continue our conversation with ACGIH – Check back to learn more about the emerging challenges the IH community should be paying attention to and factors that are advancing the profession.