Mike Krause (MSPH '83), a senior industrial hygienist for Veritox, has worked to identify health hazards in workplaces for more than 30 years. We caught up with Krause to learn how his studies in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences prepared him to protect the health and safety of people at work and in their communities.
Why environmental and occupational health sciences?
It was completely by chance. I was studying for a bachelor’s in zoology at the UW and selling shoes part time at Sears. I worked with someone who was in the department, and he said the courses were interesting and fun, so I checked it out. The next thing you know, I’m enrolling in the program.
What interested you about industrial hygiene?
I liked the idea of getting involved in a variety of industrial workplaces and processes. Here in the Northwest in the ‘70s and ‘80s, we had lots of sawmills, pulp mills and aluminum companies. There were also metal foundries and plants making boats and RVs.
What motivates you today?
There is always a new problem to tackle, particularly in litigation work, from mold exposure to indoor air quality to industrial toxics.
What is an emerging issue in industrial hygiene?
Nanotechnology – new manufactured products that are tiny in size, including carbon fibers. People are worried about the health hazards.
Do you still conduct research?
Most cases I work on require research into the latest literature, unique sampling and analysis methods, or exposure modeling. Believe it or not, at Veritox, we studied how fast mold grows. People always ask about this, so we hung sheetrock in troughs of water, then left them for weeks and watched how long it took.
What was one of your favorite post-SPH experiences?
Monitoring waste anesthetic gases in hospitals in Oregon. I was an industrial hygienist for the State Accident Insurance Fund, the state’s main worker’s compensation insurer at the time. The big issue was leaking anesthetic gas exposure and how it was affecting nurses and doctors. I would gown up and go into operating rooms. While the doctor was cutting someone open, I would be right there holding the meter and taking samples to let them know the levels and where the leaks were.
What are you most proud of in your career?
Building a company (HAZCON) and bringing along new hygienists. We had a direct pipeline from UW and SPH. I hired many graduates as they came out and put them right to work supporting industrial clients.
What makes UW students stand out?
I got good training, good hands-on experience at SPH. We took field trips to the Tacoma smelter and Bayliner boats. We did air and noise sampling, ventilation studies and even our own lab analysis. We got to see how things worked and how to control exposures. I knew that UW graduates had the skillset we needed.
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