For 85 years, ACGIH® has been considered a well-respected organization by individuals in the industrial hygiene and occupational and environmental health and safety industry. What began as a limited membership base has grown to the all-encompassing Voting Member category of today. During this time, ACGIH has grown and expanded without losing sight of its original goal – to encourage the interchange of experience among industrial hygiene workers and to collect and make accessible such information and data as might be of aid to them in the proper fulfillment of their duties. This original goal is reflected in both our current mission – the advancement of occupational and environmental health – and in our tagline: Defining Science for OEHS Experts.

The independent National Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (NCGIH) convened on June 27, 1938, in Washington, D.C. Representatives to the conference included 76 members, representing 24 states, three cities, one university, the U.S. Public Health Service, the U.S. Bureau of Mines, and the Tennessee Valley Authority. This meeting was the culmination of concerted efforts by John J. Bloomfield and Royd R. Sayers.

NCGIH originally limited its full membership to two representatives from each governmental industrial hygiene agency. In 1946, the organization changed its name to the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) and offered full membership to all industrial hygiene personnel within the agencies as well as to governmental industrial hygiene professionals in other countries. Today, membership is open to all practitioners in industrial hygiene, occupational health, environmental health, and safety domestically and abroad. In January 2013, ACGIH members approved an amendment of the organization’s Bylaws, which created a single category of membership – a voting member – who must be employed at least 50% of his or her time in occupational or environmental health and safety. At its first meeting, NCGIH created nine standing committees. The committees were charged to address the important industrial hygiene issues of the pre-War era: appraisal methods; relationships with industry, labor, the medical profession and other agencies; technical standards; education; uniform reporting of occupational diseases and other illnesses among workers; administrative development of state activities; industrial health code; legislation; and personnel. Over the next five decades, some of these Committees evolved and expanded, assuming different titles; some became the purview of other organizations or agencies; and some achieved their goals and ended their active roles. The nine ACGIH Committees focus their energies on a range of topics: agricultural safety and health, air sampling instruments, bioaerosols, biological exposure indices, industrial ventilation, international, small business, threshold limit values for chemical substances (TLV®-CS), and threshold limit values for physical agents (TLV®-PA). Today, there are five scientific committees; Bioaerosols Committee, Biological Exposure Indices Committee, Industrial Ventilation Committee, Threshold Limit Values for Chemical Substances Committee, and Threshold Limit Values for Physical Agents Committee.

The tradition of reliable working committees has served ACGIH exceptionally well. Through the efforts of its Committees, ACGIH has been able to provide critical information and has recommended practices to industrial hygienists worldwide. This history of sharing knowledge, based on careful study and independent judgment, has garnered international respect and accolades for the Conference.

Undoubtedly the best known of ACGIH’s activities, the Threshold Limit Values for Chemical Substances (TLV-CS) Committee was established in 1941. This group was charged with investigating, recommending, and annually reviewing exposure limits for chemical substances. It became a standing committee in 1944. Two years later, the organization adopted its first list of 148 exposure limits, then referred to as Maximum Allowable Concentrations. The term “Threshold Limit Values (TLVs)” was introduced in 1956. The first edition of Documentation of the Threshold Limit Values was published in 1962 and is now in its seventh edition. Today’s list of TLVs includes over 700 chemical substances and physical agents, and more than 50 Biological Exposure Indices (BEIs®) for selected chemicals.

Two other ACGIH Committees have created publications that are recognized as the preeminent professional references in their respective fields: Industrial Ventilation: A Manual of Recommended Practice, first published in 1951, and Air Sampling Instruments for Evaluation of Atmospheric Contaminants (ASI Manual) which debuted in 1960. The Ventilation Manual, now known as Industrial Ventilation: A Manual of Recommended Practice for Design (the “Design Manual”), is now in its 28th edition and has a companion, Industrial Ventilation: A Manual of Recommended Practice for Operation and Maintenance (the “O&M Manual”). The ASI Manual is now in its 9th edition. Twenty-three monographs that will be included in a future ACGIH Signature Publication, entitled Air Sampling Technologies: Principles and Applications, are available as downloadable documents. These represent the latest air sampling principles and practices.

The other ACGIH Committees have also published valuable professional reference texts. Some of these include: Bioaerosols: Assessment and Control (1999); A Guide for Control of Laser Hazards, 4th Edition (1990); and Particle Size-Selective Sampling for Particulate Air Contaminants (1999).

ACGIH offers approximately 400 publication titles, including their well-known Signature Publications. Topics range from industrial hygiene, environmental health, safety and health science, medical/toxicology, hazardous materials/waste, workplace controls, indoor air quality, physical agents, ergonomics, distance learning, computer resources, downloadable products including TLV and BEI Documentation, and professional development. All of ACGIH’s publications can be ordered online at www.acgih.org/store.

In addition to our publications, ACGIH has supported numerous educational activities that facilitate the exchange of ideas, information, and techniques. These courses, symposia, webinars, and workshops are all vehicles for achieving the ultimate goal of worker health and safety.

Over the years, the topics have included cotton dust exposures, workplace control of carcinogens, industrial hygiene for mining and tunneling, asbestos identification and measurement, and others. Today, this commitment to providing forums for discussion of timely issues is evidenced through webinars, seminars and conferences on bloodborne pathogens and sharps injuries, air sampling, industrial ventilation, bioaerosols, mining, occupational exposure databases, mold remediation, nanotechnology, control banding and others.

ACGIH is committed to providing its members and others in the occupational and environmental health industry with the information they need to excel in their profession. As part of this commitment, ACGIH is pleased to offer cutting edge courses, webinars, workshops, and symposia.

In 1961, ACGIH began co-sponsoring an annual conference with the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA). Today, the American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Exposition (AIHce) is one of the world’s premier conferences for occupational and environmental safety and health professionals. It attracts an international attendance of more than 5,000 each year. ACGIH Committees and individual members contribute their expertise in professional development courses, technical sessions, and poster sessions. Also featured is the ACGIH Pavilion, where industry professionals can purchase publications, see software demonstrations, apply for membership, and find information on upcoming educational events.

ACGIH’s dedication to information dissemination is also evident through its commitment to the journal, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene (JOEH). First published in 1986 under the title Applied Industrial Hygiene, the journal focused on publishing information that practicing professionals could apply in their day-to-day activities. The name was changed in 1990 to Applied Occupational and Environmental Hygiene (Applied) to reflect the scope and emphasis of the journal. In January 2004, Applied and the AIHA Journal combined to become the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene (JOEH), a new journal for the profession. JOEH, primarily an online journal, offers “fast-track” publishing of approved articles, and a continuous flow of important scientific information to the profession. ACGIH’s continuing education program, The Action Level!®, is included in the journal each month. The Action Level! is a convenient, cost-efficient program, through which Certified Associate Industrial Hygienists, Certified Industrial Hygienists and Certified Safety Professionals can maintain their certifications. J. Thomas Pierce, PhD, CIH (1980-2012), DABT (Retired) coordinates this program, and questions are based on articles within each issue.

In 1998, ACGIH created an alliance with the Foundation for Occupational Health & Safety (FOHS). FOHS was established to complement the work of the American Industrial Hygiene Foundation (AIHF). The FOHS mission includes:

  • Sponsoring research, education, and the publication of scientific information
  • Providing a vehicle for financial support of the improvement and enhancement of occupational and environmental health and safety and the general public health
  • Disseminating the results of valuable research findings and assuring a heightened quality of continuing education in occupational safety and health

One of the first programs undertaken by FOHS was the Jeffrey S. Lee Lectureship. This lecture series was established to pay tribute to the late Dr. Lee whose unswerving dedication and immeasurable contributions to occupational health and safety worldwide will long serve as a legacy and an inspiration for those who serve in the profession. The Foundation intends to present the Lee Lecture at least annually in North America and throughout the world.

In 2003, FOHS established the Worldwide Outreach Program. The Worldwide Outreach Program has as its mission to support the professional development of occupational health and safety with emphasis on primary prevention in Occupational Hygiene.

In 2008, FOHS created the “Sustainable TLV/BEI Fund (the Fund).” The core purpose of the Fund is to develop sustainable financial support to ensure the continued development of TLVs and BEIs. The Fund was created to address the following factors:

  • Since its inception, the core purpose and “cause” of ACGIH has been to protect workplace employees through the development of science- based occupational exposure guidelines widely known as the TLVs and BEIs. These guidelines have become recognized throughout the world as forming the scientific basis for subsequent development of workplace standards. The potential loss of the TLVs and BEIs would result in a significant loss of basic worker protection.
  • Current economic conditions and recent legal challenges put the continuation of ACGIH’s core cause and purpose at risk, namely the continued development of occupational exposure guidelines.
  • FOHS has the ability to solicit and receive donations and grants from corporate, governmental and private entities alike. There are potentially many entities that would provide support for sustaining the TLV and BEI processes, and the Fund creates the mechanism for receiving that support.

Through the creation of the Fund, FOHS will be able to solicit funds to help support the continued development of TLVs and BEIs. The purpose of the Fund will be to augment support for existing ACGIH programs used in developing TLVs and BEIs. The establishment of the Fund will provide additional opportunities for raising funds to support and sustain the core mission and value of developing and promoting occupational exposure guidelines.

In January of 2016, ACGIH became a 501(c)(3) charitable scientific organization. ACGIH was formerly a 501(c)(6) organization. This new status will allow ACGIH to solicit tax-deductible donations and also pursue grants to support its important work. For over 80 years, ACGIH has been at the forefront of providing information on how employers can keep workplaces safe and healthy for workers and on how employees can protect themselves from health and safety hazards at work. By providing employers and workers with guidelines and recommendations that create safe work environments or minimize inherently dangerous ones, ACGIH and its Committees have led the way in protecting the safety and health of workers. Now you can support the important work of ACGIH and its Committees in the development of TLVs and BEIs by making a tax-deductible donation to the ACGIH General Fund in furtherance of its mission to advance occupational and environmental health.

Since its founding in 1938, ACGIH has gone through many changes. Its membership has grown and diversified; its interests and projects have multiplied; names and faces in the organization have evolved. Despite these changes, ACGIH has not lost sight of its original objectives, which are reflected in today’s organizational mission:

To advance occupational and environmental health globally by providing educational programs, scientific data, and technical knowledge to Occupational and Environmental Health and Safety (OEHS) professionals in the interest of workers and the public.