Summing Up AIHce 2009

TORONTO, Canada -- What's next for America's industrial hygienists? The path forward may have been laid during this year's American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Expo when the leaders of its co-hosts, the American Industrial Hygiene Association and the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists, announced their alliance. ACGIH Chair Jimmy Perkins, Ph.D., CIH, and AIHA President Lindsay Booher, CIH, CSP, have set a fast timeline that includes fall 2009 approval by ACGIH voters of bylaws changes and January 2010 approval of next year's budgets.

Perkins and Booher said the alliance is not a merger and promised it will ensure both organizations' long-term stability. The muted reaction to the plan by AIHce attendees was surprising, and the conference as a whole reinforced the impression that the profession has weakened considerably since AIHce last met in Toronto in 1999. If the changes are finalized as the boards of AIHA and ACGIH intend, ACGIH will no longer be a membership organization. Supported financially by AIHA, it will maintain science-based guidelines for professional practice--the TLVs® and BEIs®. AIHA will be the sole membership organization.

Years ago, proposing a name change for AIHA sparked heated debate at one of these conferences, with the proposal ultimately shot down. Professionals often oppose a new name, new membership criteria, or a new mission statement for a professional organization in which they’ve invested, yet the announcement of an imminent switch to AIHA membership for around 1,500 ACGIH members barely made a ripple. Speaking at a June 2 session to obtain feedback from the members, Booher said many among the 1,500 dual members are having trouble paying dues to both, and he added, "I think we're at a critical point for the profession." Perhaps 35 people were there to hear him--and several of them were board members of AIHA or ACGIH.

IH will see brighter days. The alliance should sustain the renowned exposure guidelines that are vital to the profession, and the two associations should realize cost savings by eliminating duplicate services. Members, trade publications, and association staffers and elected officers have long recommended such a consolidation to position the profession financially for long-term survival. AIHce 2009 might have been poorly attended with a disappointing expo in any city during this recession, but meeting in Canada surely magnified the attendance and exhibitor declines. Booher said attendance was 15-20 percent below that of last year's AIHce; Gayla McCluskey, CIH, CSP, ROH, AIHA's 2002 president, joked at the start of a fairly full June 3 "town hall" session about the future of the profession that it seemed all of the conference’s attendees were present.

At www.acgihaihaalliance.org are the timeline, FAQs, a link for e-mailing comments about the alliance, a note promising town hall meetings will be held, and a page where a blog is also promised.

AIHce 2010 (www.aihce2010.org) will take place May 22-27, 2010, in Denver, Colo.

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