Stephen J. Reynolds, PhD, CIH
Introductions presents profiles of industrial hygienists working to protect
worker health worldwide. This month
we feature Stephen J. Reynolds, PhD,
CIH. Reynolds is an AIHA Fellow and
a professor in the Department of Environmental, Radiological and Health
Sciences at Colorado State University
in Fort Collins, Colo. Prior to his arrival at Colorado State, Reynolds was
director of the industrial hygiene program at the University of Iowa. He
has also worked as an industrial hygiene consultant.
In addition to teaching, Reynolds
serves as deputy director of the
NIOSH Mountains and Plains Education and Research Center (ERC) and
as director of the NIOSH High Plains
Intermountain Center for Agricultural Health and Safety. Reynolds
spoke with The Synergist in February, weeks after the release of President Obama’s federal budget request
for fiscal year 2012. The president’s
budget recommended eliminating
funding for all NIOSH ERCs and
Agricultural and Health Centers (see
related article on page 12).
Reynolds can be reached at (970)
491-3141 or stephen.reynolds@
Did you have any forewarning that President Obama’s budget would eliminate
funding for the NIOSH ERCs and Agricultural Centers?
It was a complete shock, partly because we had just gotten done writing our competitive
renewals for the Ag Centers, which was a tremendous effort. My understanding is that
NIOSH was kind of blindsided by this as well. It’s something that we’ve had to deal with
several times in the past. There have been initiatives to eliminate NIOSH or cut NIOSH
funds, but it was a real surprise that it was in the president’s budget.
If the ERCs are eliminated, what will the impact be on OEHS professionals?
The impact on both the science and the practice of occupational health would be catastrophic. It would basically eliminate our infrastructure in this country. I also think it
would be tremendously counterproductive in terms of the financial impact on American
workers and the American businesses that employ them.
As of mid-March, Congress hasn’t yet agreed on the 2011 budget, let alone
2012. Do you have a sense of how quickly things might move now that proposals are on the table?
Things are moving very quickly. I know the continuing resolution, which is keeping the
government open until Mar. 18, included a number of cuts but did not include this one.
The possibility, though, is that over the next couple of weeks [these cuts] could be part
of the discussion for the current year, 2011, as well as for the 2012 budget.
If these cuts are approved for the 2012 budget, how quickly would the ERCs
and Ag Centers feel the effects?
The budget year for the ERCs typically starts in July. I don’t know whether NIOSH would
try to keep things running for part of the year. It might happen as quickly as this summer that the funding would not be available. I think the impact on all of the trainees, especially new people coming in—even if there was funding through the fall, it seems like
it would be extremely difficult to try to recruit somebody knowing that they would only
have a very limited timeframe for support.
What’s being done in response to these proposed cuts?
Because this is such a devastating impact on not just occupational health practitioners
but on American businesses, it really has been a wake-up call to occupational health
professions and scientific organizations, businesses, the ERCs and Ag Centers—a wake-up call that we absolutely have to find ways to work together, that we are in this all together. There is a coordinated effort of all of those entities, including thousands of
businesses throughout the country to work together to respond to, first of all, the rationale [for the proposed cuts], which was not based on accurate information; and also to
make the business case for what the real impact of this would be on the country. And
we’re working with our representatives in the Senate and the Congress to insure that we
don’t make this mistake.