1935 Toxicology Pioneer
DuPont established the Haskell Laboratory of Industrial Toxicology in 1935. Named for DuPont executive Harry G. Haskell, it was one of the first of its kind. Scientists at Haskell Laboratory test each new DuPont product for safety. They also study particular chemicals and production processes. In 1953 the Haskell Laboratory moved from the Experimental Station to new quarters near Newark, Del., and its five divisions–toxicology, biochemistry, pathology, physiology and physics–expanded their research into workplace and product safety hazards.
George H. Gehrmann, M.D. (1890-1959) led DuPont's pioneering efforts within the field of occupational health, helping to set new standards for preventive medicine in the chemical industry. Appointed medical director in 1926, he faced his greatest professional challenge in the early 1930s when DuPont physicians found a pattern of fatal bladder tumors among the company's dye workers. Gehrmann traveled to Europe to solicit information and solutions. Impressed by the cleanliness and sophistication of German dye plant operations, as well as by their toxicology investigations, Gehrmann resolved to introduce similar high standards to America. Soon after he returned from Europe, he recommended that DuPont undertake medical screening and periodic examination of workers, rigorous personal and plant hygiene standards, and the establishment of a laboratory to monitor toxicological effects of chemicals. The company implemented these practices, and in 1935 built and equipped the Haskell Laboratory of Industrial Toxicology, the first such laboratory in the United States. Under Gehrmann's leadership, the Haskell Laboratory became a leading center for toxicological and occupational health research.
During his career at DuPont, Gehrmann fostered other innovations in occupational health, such as a program to treat alcoholism, healthy diets for sedentary executives, and in-house psychiatric consultation to address the stress-related nature of many medical symptoms. Respected as a leading figure in American occupational health, Gehrmann was president of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM). Since 1956 the ACOEM has invited top practitioners to present the annual Gehrmann Lecture named in his honor.