Riding the Green Wave

DENVER -- A gale blowing through downtown Denver whipped up dust and buffeted the 5,500 attendees of this week's 2010 American Industrial Hygiene Conference & Expo. It was one more challenge for these IH professionals, some of whom fondly remembered when 14,000 people would attend this conference and its packed job fair hummed. Not this year. But the profession and its associations nevertheless may be feeling the wind at their backs, for they possess the skills and expertise to lead the sustainability wave. Every organization may have its own definition of the term, yet it is now a universal business imperative, and it could be exactly what the industrial hygiene community needs to boost its spirits and prospects.

This was evident from AIHce 2010's opening keynote speech at 8 a.m. May 24. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. spoke about renewable energy for the most part, contrasting wind, solar thermal, and geothermal projects with coal's environmental impact on Appalachia -- a cause his famous father had championed more than 40 years ago -- and the oil spill quickly expanding across the Gulf of Mexico as he spoke.

A handful of sessions on the conference's agenda were tied into LEED, green initiatives, and sustainability, including a "Green Construction Practices" session featuring NIOSH and EPA presenters on Monday afternoon and an "Unintended Consequences: Occupant Exposures in Green Buildings" session on Wednesday morning. The program included a Green Track for the first time, as well as a Stewardship and Sustainability track and an Environmental Issues track with 11 sessions listed. Pooling these, exhibitors' product demonstrations, and other tracks with related content, at least 25 activities at the conference spoke to sustainability and green.

Dozens of AIHce 2010 exhibitors showed environmental products and solutions, consulting services, risk assessment and testing capabilities, and training. IH suppliers have bought into sustainability and have positioned their offerings accordingly.

Can this trend restore AIHce to its robust past? That's a very tall order, but it might be possible. The American Society of Safety Engineers announced May 28 that its conference continues to prosper. The June 13-15 event in Baltimore will have the largest expo yet for an ASSE annual meeting in both exhibitors and square feet sold: more than 400 exhibitors occupying more than 62,100 square feet of floor space.

Posted by Jerry Laws on May 28, 2010