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June 15th 2020

Eulogy for Eula Bingham

With great sadness, the Collegium Ramazzini announces the death of Professor Eula Bingham, long-time Fellow and Past President of the Collegium Ramazzini, a globally recognized champion for the health and safety of working people. Here below is the text of her Eulogy and attached a document with poignant memories of Eula from her community of friends and colleagues around the world.

Eula Bingham was a true giant of occupational health. Throughout the 90 years of her life, she insisted tirelessly that workers had the absolute right to be safe on the job. Her thoughtful and generous wisdom shaped the entire field of occupational safety and health. Her bold and courageous actions prevented countless illnesses and injuries in workers around the world.

Dr. Bingham began her scientific career at the University of Cincinnati School of Medicine in 1961 with pioneering research on chemical carcinogenesis. She studied polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in coke ovens. She published a major paper on bladder cancer in chemical workers that she had researched in her own city of Cincinnati. These studies led Dr. Bingham to the realization that American workers are exposed daily in their work to known and suspect chemical carcinogens often under poorly controlled conditions that pose grave dangers to their health. This recognition spurred her to a lifetime of public service on behalf of workers.

Beginning in the early 1970s, Dr. Bingham recognized that the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the then new legislation that had passed in 1970 and created NIOSH and OSHA, opened up powerful new opportunities to protect workers against carcinogens and other toxic chemicals. In 1973, she served on a Department of Labor Standards Advisory Committee on Carcinogens whose purpose was to recommend controls to prevent workplace cancer. She went on in 1975 to chair the Federal Research Standards Advisory Committee on Coke Oven Emissions, service that built on her earlier research experience with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in coal tar in her coke ovens research. She was also a member of the National Academy of Sciences' Lead in Paint Commission and a science policy advisor to FDA and EPA.

Dr. Bingham's research and policy work in occupational safety and health led President Carter to nominate her on March 11, 1977 to be Assistant Secretary of Labor and OSHA Administrator.

From 1977 to 1981, Eula Bingham served as Assistant Secretary of Labor at the US. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in the administration of President Jimmy Carter. Her work at OSHA resulted in the promulgation of the occupational lead exposure standard, arguably the most comprehensive and innovative occupational health and safety standard ever established in the United States; to promulgation of the "Right-to-Know" standard giving workers the right to know the chemical hazards in the places where they worked; and to promulgation of the cotton dust standard designed to protect textile workers in the American South - the poorest, least-represented, politically-powerless industrial workers in the nation - against the ravages of byssinosis. Another of Dr. Bingham's enduring legacies at OSHA was the creation of a comprehensive worker training program - the New Directions program -- that built a cadre of health and safety activists in unions, in communities, and in academia, who continue today, nearly 40 years later to sustain the fight for a safe and healthy workplace.

Following her return to Cincinnati at the conclusion of her service in Washington, began a series of collaborations with construction workers who had been employed at US Department of Energy (DOE) nuclear weapons production sites during the Cold War. The goal of this pioneering research was to identify risks to workers at these nuclear sites. Dr. Bingham was one of the first scientists in America to address this issue, which had previously been shrouded in national security concerns.

The first of Dr. Bingham's collaborations with DOE workers was with the Carpenters Union at the Oak Ridge Site where the workers believed they had been exposed to radiation and hazardous chemicals. Dr. Bingham developed a novel method to reconstruct these workers' past exposures, based upon building blueprints, remodeling records and worker interviews. Construction workers marked maps of the buildings in which they had worked and their tasks. This effort was necessary because little information was available from DOE which had not provided medical examinations or even radiation badges for workers in the early years of weapons production.

This research was highly successful and on the basis of Dr. Bingham's findings, her scientific reputation and her personal commitment to ending hazards in the workplace, DOE was persuaded to initiate the Former Worker Medical Screening Program, a national program to screen workers at its nuclear sites. Following initiation of this program, Dr. Bingham began collaboration with the Center to Protect Workers' Rights (CPWR) in joint efforts throughout the U.S. to identify construction workers at risk in nuclear sites and to provide them with medical examinations.

From 1992 to 1997, Eula Bingham served with great distinction as second President of the Collegium Ramazzini following the death of the Collegium's founder, Professor Irving Selikoff. She was the recipient of the Collegium Ramazzini's highest honor, the Ramazzini Award, in 2000.
Eula Bingham was an accomplished and beloved teacher. As Vice-President and Dean of the Graduate School, and professor at the University of Cincinnati, she continued her advocacy for worker safety and health. Her enlightenment of students to worker safety and health issues has ensured that her hundreds of students will carry her knowledge and passion for worker protection on to many new generations assuring that worker safety and health will continue to be a key component of medical practice.
Eula Bingham was the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including: the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization's Selikoff Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019; the American Public Health Association's David Platt Rall Award for Advocacy in Public Health in 2000; the Mary O. Amdur Award from New York University in 1999; the Henry Smythe, Jr. Toxicologist Award of the American Academy of Industrial Hygiene in 1998; the American Industrial Hygiene Association's Alice Hamilton Award in 1995; the United Steel Workers of America's first William Lloyd Award for Occupational Safety in 1984; the American Public Health Association's Alice Hamilton Award in 1984; the Rockefeller Foundation's Public Service Award in 1980; and the American Lung Association's Julia Jones Award in 1980

Eula Bingham died on June 13, 2020. Her colleague Dr. Carol Rice wrote on the occasion of Dr. Bingham's death,
"On Saturday, the heart that embraced the rights of every worker stopped beating and Eula Bingham slipped away. She leaves a legacy of laboratory research relevant to the workplace, health and safety policy and regulations, students who went on to improve workplaces and the environment through professional practice and research, and generations of workers empowered to limit exposure to toxics. The Bingham ripples into the future are mighty: continued progress toward 'employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards' inches forward each day, as the winds blow beneath all those many wings she embolden to fly."
In summarizing Dr. Bingham's and her life's work, President Jimmy Carter stated in 2015 that,

"I was fortunate to have many outstanding appointments in our administration, and Eula was one of the best. I always could count on her for sound and direct advice with the well-being of the American worker foremost in her mind. She helped eliminate barriers to women in the workforce and to make our nation's workforce stronger and more productive. Eula deserves credit as one of the unsung heroes giving women an important voice and a place in our nation's history. We all should be proud of her service to our country."

Dr. Eula Bingham was a renowned scholar in occupational safety and health, a national leader, and a hero to working men and women around the world.

Eula Bingham is survived by her daughters Julia Mattheis, Helen (Brett Visger) and Martha Mattheis; granddaughters Charlotte and Anna Visger.
Condolences may be sent to: 3547 Herschel View St, Cincinnati OH 45208 USA.

Download Eula Bingham memories here.

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