July 12, 2017 / Brigette Polmar

#IAmIH: Up-and-Coming IH Tackles “Black Hole of Research” to Help Protect 200,000 Workers

AIHA member Max Chmielinski isn’t just launching his career as an industrial hygienist. He’s blazing a trail. Chmielinski is working on the leading edge of critical IH research in the emerging, controversial—and potentially dangerous—marijuana industry.

“I saw these sheer numbers and it horrified me. There are 200,000 workers, and the conditions within the places they’re working for 8 to 12 hours a day are unknown. It’s a black hole of research,” said Chmielinski, who is conducting research at the University of Washington School of Public Health in Seattle to measure UV light exposure in the blooming industry. “What we’re trying to do here at UW is develop a mathematical model of how the light propagates and what is the exposure intensity at the various points around the facility. It’s an interesting combination of math modeling and this really cool technology, taking new spectrometers and just pointing them at things. I feel like a kid in a candy shop.”

Chmielinski earned an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering before pursuing his PhD in Environmental and Occupational Hygiene.

“This is a very rare field. It allows you to be a specialist in just about anything, while still directing all of your efforts towards the greater good. I can’t think of a more noble field that has that broad scope,” said Chmielinski. “Every single college major can find a place in IH, can make a difference, and all of that energy is directed towards the good. It’s directed toward protection, and there’s something noble about that.”

Industrial hygiene is his passion and his pedigree. Max is the son of acclaimed expedition leader Piotr Chmielinski, the first man to paddle the length of the Amazon in 1986. Piotr, the co-founder of HP Environmental, is also a prominent industrial hygienist known for testing and analyzing air quality at Ground Zero. His approach to both has inspired his son.

“My dad understands people. He really looks, listens, hears and responds to what is needed,” said Max, who considers his IH career and groundbreaking research an expedition all its own. “This is exciting. This is an adventure itself.”

At just 25, Chmielinski is dedicated to worker safety. “I want to take this and do something good. This is my core motivation.”

Brigette Polmar

Brigette Polmar is a professional brand journalist who covers the industrial hygiene profession, AIHA member news, AIHce EXP, and more. A former Washington correspondent and broadcast journalist, Polmar is the founder of Brand Spoken​ specializing in industry-specific coverage on paper, online, and on the air.


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