Social Concerns Committee


To provide a forum for identifying and responding to social issues related to occupational and environmental health.  

Goals and Objectives  

Goal: Provide input on the development and implementation of governmental, academic, industrial, and labor policies concerned with the occupational and environmental health of workers.  

Objective #1: Respond to the potential for discriminatory action based on occupational and environmental health policies.  


  • Assess the impact of occupational and environmental health policies on workers and other populations.

  • Respond to AIHA Board requests to address specific issues.

  • Meet at the AIHce and at other times as appropriate.   

Objective #2: Raise the level of awareness of relevant social issues among occupational and environmental health professionals.  


  • Work with other AIHA committees whose output may have implications relative to social issues.

  • Solicit papers; organize sessions; and provide session arrangers, chairs, and monitors for the AIHce.

  • Develop and recommend positions to the AIHA Board.   


Upton Sinclair Memorial Lecture    

The Upton Sinclair Memorial Lecture for an Outstanding Occupational Safety and Health News Story of The Year was instituted in 2000 by AIHA's Social Concerns Committee to highlight the importance of media in occupational safety and health, to show AIHA members what is beyond their plants and companies, to involve the public in the cause of occupational safety and health, and to recognize good investigative reporting. The lecture is named for the political activist Upton Sinclair, best known for his novel The Jungle, published in 1906. The Jungle highlighted the horrors of the meat packing plants in Chicago lead to major health and safety changes in the industry.   

Each year there are a number of safety and health news stories that make a big impact, such as the stories on the beryllium industry in the Toledo newspapers or the Libby, Montana disaster in the Seattle newspapers. These stories even effect changes in policy and improve protections for workers. In general, coverage of safety and health issues is rare in the press, but the lecture helps to encourage coverage of these issues and also recognizes outstanding achievement.   

The lecture is presented annually at AIHce. A journalist will be invited to deliver a lecture based on his or her story and extend the impact to the professional audience. Nominees can be from different media including: newspapers, magazines, the Internet, television, and radio. The goal of lecture is, in part, to stimulate discussion in the industrial hygiene professional community about how it could have a bigger impact and be more pro-active to prevent future injuries and illnesses.     

2017: Howard Berkes from National Public Radio - Advanced Black Lung Cases Surge in Appalachia 

Howard Berkes was selected for his reporting on black lung: “Advanced Black Lung Cases Surge in Appalachia.”  The report focuses on Appalachia, where coal miners are suffering from the most serious form of the deadly mining disease black lung, progressive massive fibrosis PMF, in numbers more than 10 times what federal regulators report.

Since 2010, Berkes has focused mostly on investigative projects, beginning with the Upper Big Branch coal mine disaster in West Virginia in which 29 workers died. Since then, Berkes has reported on coal mine and workplace safety, including the safety lapses at the Upper Big Branch mine, other failures in mine safety regulation, the resurgence of the deadly coal miners disease black lung, and weak enforcement of grain bin safety as worker deaths reached record levels. Berkes was part of the team that collaborated with the Center for Public Integrity in 2011 resulting in Poisoned Places, a series exploring weaknesses in air pollution regulation by states and EPA. In 2015 and 2016, Berkes collaborated with ProPublica on Insult to Injury, a series of stories about a "race to the bottom" in workers' compensation benefits across the country, which won the IRE Medal from Investigative Reporters & Editors, the nation's top award for investigative eporting. 




2016 Lecture with Sarah Maslin Nir -
Unvarnished: Behind the Story the revealed the True Human Cost of Nice NailsUpton_Sinclair_Lecture_Sarah_Maslin_Nir_2.JPG
2017: Howard Berkes from National Public Radio - Advanced Black Lung Cases Surge in Appalachia 
2016: Sarah Nir - The Price of Nice Nails    

2015: Michael Grabell - Temp Land: Working in the New Economy 

2014: Gabriel Thompson - Hiddden Dangers at Work 

2013: Tony Cook- Indianapolis Star- Sensient Flavorings investigation 

2012: Chris Hamby- Center for Public Integrity- VPP investigation series 

2011: Jim Morris- Center for Public Integrity- Asbestos investigative reporting 

2010: Stephen Greenhouse- New York Times- World of Hurt series 

2009: Alexandra Berzon- Las Vegas Sun- Construction deaths on the Las Vegas strip 

2008: Loretta Tofani- Salt Lake City Tribune- American Imports, Chinese deaths 

2007: Jordan Barab- Occupational Safety and Health and the Media 

2006: Ken Ward- Charleston Gazette- The Sago Mine Disaster 

2005: Gerald Markowitz (and David Rosner), historians and authors discussed their book "Deceit and Denial" and the controversy surrounding it. 

2004: Woody Sixel from Houston Chronicle spoke to discuss her column "Working" which covers workplace safety and health issues 

2003: David Barstow from the NY Times spoke about his series on McWane Industries and the PBS show that resulted from it. 

2002: Sherry Jones producer from Bill Moyers program invited to talk about their program "Trade Secrets" - She couldn't come so we showed the program 

2001: Andrew Schneider (invited) but Carol Jones lectured about their series on Asbestos in Libby, Montana   

AIHce Sessions Sponsored by the Social Concerns Committee (1977-present)  


An annotated list of all sessions sponsored by the Social Concerns Committee since 1977.  It shows the wide diversity of topics covered and gives a sense of the direction and focus of the committee. 

AIHce Showing of the Film

2017: Blood on the Mountain 

“Blood on the Mountain” is a searing investigation into the economic and environmental injustices that have resulted from industrial control in West Virginia. The documentary details the struggles of a hard-working, misunderstood people, who have historically faced limited choices and have never benefited fairly from the rich, natural resources of their land. The film delivers a striking portrait of a fractured population, exploited and besieged by corporate interests, and abandoned by the powers elected to represent them. 

Student Poster Awards   



First Place:
Evaluating Personal Attenuation Ratings of Midwest Agricultural and Industrial Workers
Christine DeVito, University of Iowa  

Second Place:
Exposure to Glyphosate in the Agriculture Sector: A Critical Review and Comparison of Biomonitoring Results and Potential Exposure
Eric Cuevas, University of Illnois-Chicago 

Third Place:
Identifying Realt Time VOC Exposure and Source Direction for A School Surrounded by Industrial Area
Rih-Sheng Jian, National Taiwan Normal University  


1st Place

Performance of an N95 Filtering Facepiece Respirator and a Surgical Mask Used by Home Attending Health-Care Workers (Pilot Study) Yousef Elmashae, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio (Graduate) 

 2nd Place  

The Environmental Justice Youth Training Program: Increasing Community Capacity through A Youth-Based Drop-in Module Amy Hillerman, California State University, Fullerton, California (Graduate) 

 3rd Place 

Determinants of Nicotine Exposure in Tobacco Harvesting Workers: A Pilot Study Nchekwubechukwu Okafor and Vedant Gohil, University of North Texas, Fort Worth, Texas (Graduate)  


 Oumy Sy, student at the University of Oklahoma, standing alongside her poster entitled “Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders Among African Hair Braiders” that won the Social Concerns Committee’s Best Student Poster award at the 2014 AIHce in San Antonio.