April 4, 2023

2023 Upton Sinclair Memorial Lecture to Examine Lingering Effects of Rubber Industry

FALLS CHURCH, Va. (April 4, 2023)—Award-winning author, journalist, and educator Yanick Rice Lamb will give the 2023 Upton Sinclair Memorial Lecture at 3:15 Pacific time on Monday, May 22, at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona. The lecture is one of the scheduled events for AIHce EXP, the annual conference for occupational and environmental health and safety (OEHS) professionals hosted by AIHA. Lamb’s Upton Sinclair Memorial Lecture, titled “Unintended Consequences: The Rubber Industry’s Toxic Legacy in Akron,” will examine how communities’ health, jobs, economic development, and neighborhood cohesion are impacted by deindustrialization, as well as how OEHS and public health professionals can work with journalists to protect citizens and their communities.

Lamb’s work as an investigative journalist includes her series of articles on the rubber industry’s impact on community life and health in Akron, Ohio, published jointly by the Center for Public Integrity and Belt Magazine. In the late 19th century, Ohio led rubber production in the United States. By 1950, more than 130 rubber manufacturing companies employed at least 85,000 people in Akron, which became known as the “Rubber Capital of the World.” Now, these jobs are mostly gone, but the toxins produced by the rubber companies still affect the health of former rubber workers, their family members, and their neighbors. In her presentation, Lamb will tell the story of the rubber, the factories, the jobs, the pollution, the sicknesses, and how they continue to shape the lives of people and families in Akron and beyond.

“I'm honored that my work has been selected as the Occupational Health Story of the Year,” said Lamb. “I commend AIHA for upholding Upton Sinclair's legacy in addressing industrial harms and for recognizing the work of modern-day journalists who continue to tell these untold stories.”

“In the tradition of Sinclair and others,” she said, “I attempted to shed light on the lives lost and the lingering impact of the rubber industry on the health of workers, their families, and the public at large. These stories are far too common across the country.”

Lamb’s articles on the rubber industry in Akron earned her first prize in investigative reporting in the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists’ 2022 SPJ Awards. The Fund for Investigative Journalism described the series as “powerful and effective” and named Lamb a 2022 cowinner of the Thomas L. Stokes Award for Best Energy and Environment Writing for her work. The Morgan State University’s School of Global Journalist and Communication selected Lamb as the runner up for the 2022 Vernon Jarret Medal for Journalistic Excellence, praising her series as “an exemplary piece of research about deindustrialization and its impact on a marginalized community.” She is also a professor of journalism at Howard University.

AIHce EXP 2023 will take place May 22 to 24 at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona. Members of the media who are interested in obtaining press passes to the Upton Sinclair Memorial Lecture should contact Ina Xhani, AIHA’s communication associate, at [email protected].

About the 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. Each yearly lecture intends to highlight the importance of media in occupational safety and health, show AIHA members the world beyond their plants and companies, involve the public in the cause of occupational safety and health, and recognize good investigative reporting. The lecture is named in honor of the political activist Upton Sinclair, best known for his 1906 novel The Jungle, which revealed the horrors experienced by workers in Chicago meatpacking plants and led to major health and safety changes in the industry.

About Yanick Rice Lamb

Yanick Rice Lamb is an independent journalist, author, and professor at Howard University, where she is completing a doctorate in medical sociology with a specialization in health equity and environmental issues. She is also a cofounder of the health website www.FierceforBlackWomen.com. Previously, she has been the editor-in-chief of the magazines BET Weekend and Heart & Soul, an editor at The New York Times, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Child Magazine, and Essence Magazine, and a reporter and copyeditor at The Toledo Blade.

About AIHA

AIHA is the association for scientists and professionals committed to preserving and ensuring occupational and environmental health and safety in the workplace and community. Founded in 1939, we support our members with our expertise, networks, comprehensive education programs, and other products and services that help them maintain the highest professional and competency standards. More than half of AIHA's nearly 8,500 members are Certified Industrial Hygienists, and many hold other professional designations. AIHA serves as a resource for those employed across the public and private sectors, as well as to the communities in which they work. For more information, visit www.aiha.org.