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Industrial Hygienists and Toxicologists

Roles of the Industrial Hygienist and Toxicologist

Industrial hygienists and toxicologists are specialists who most commonly provide support through the on-site incident command structure during active response situations. They are also involved in addressing exposure and health related issues after the initial active emergency response phase ends, as well as in emergency response planning.

The following provides examples of what industrial hygienists and toxicologists do related to chemical-related emergency planning, preparedness, and response:

Industrial hygienists

Industrial hygienists in the American Industrial Hygiene Association's Incident Preparedness and Response Working Group have developed a "White Paper" on "Industrial Hygienists' Role and Responsibilities In Emergency Preparedness and Response." This white paper contains the following summary and notes the following initiatives:

Summary: Industrial Hygienists play a significant role in protecting the lives of our nation's response personnel, its support staff, and the surrounding community. Industrial Hygienists' technical expertise in occupational and environmental health and safety issues are applicable to a variety of natural disasters, hazardous chemical, biological or radiological releases, and terrorism events. Industrial Hygienists can effectively identify and control risks during Pre-Planning, Emergency Response, and Consequence Management Phases of an incident.

Initiatives: Through the appointed Emergency Preparedness and Response (EPR) Task Force, AIHA will focus the on the following objectives:

  • Identify educational and training opportunities, through its Professional Development Courses, Symposiums, and Distance Learning venues, involving critical EPR tasks related to IH functions.
  • Advise and develop alliances with organizations related to Emergency Planning and Response (e.g., local AIHA Sections, Local Emergency Planning Committees, National Fire Protection Association).
  • Recommend EPR tasks, critical to the development of health and safety guidelines for both its members and outside response organizations, to the appropriate AIHA Technical Committees.


Toxicologists working at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Division of Toxicology and Environmental Medicine do the following:

  • Provide technical expertise and site-specific support in addressing the health issues presented by emergency or acute release events and threatened releases of hazardous materials.
  • Coordinate agency toxicology and environmental medicine activities with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Toxicology Program (NTP), and other appropriate Federal, State, local, or public programs
  • Establish minimal risk levels (MRLs) for hazardous substances. An MRL is a scientific estimate of the daily human exposure to a hazardous substance that is likely to be without appreciable risk of adverse non-cancerous health effects over a specified duration of exposure
  • Provide substance-specific consultations (toxicological expertise) to state and federal agencies as well as to the general public;
  • Develop and apply a program of computational toxicology research to enhance traditional approaches

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Links to Other CHEMM content

The following provides links to information for use by industrial hygienists and toxicologists who may be called on to provide assistance for chemical emergencies.

Information and Tools Related to Areas of Specific Expertise

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Key References and Web Sites

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