No Unreasonable Risk

A number of statutes require balancing risks against benefits in making risk management decisions. Two examples include:

The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act requires the EPA to register pesticides that will not cause "unreasonable adverse effects on environment." The phrase refers to "any unreasonable risks to man or the environment taking into account the economic, social, and environmental costs and benefits of the use of any pesticide."

The Toxic Substances Control Act mandates that the EPA is to take action if a chemical substance "presents or will present an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment." This includes considering the substance's effects on human health and the environment; the magnitude of human and environmental exposure; the benefits and availability of such substances for various uses; and the reasonably ascertainable economic consequences of the rule.

The RCRA embodies both technology-based and pure-risk-based standards. Congress and the EPA have attempted to craft RCRA regulations in pure-risk-based rationales, but the large numbers of mixtures and the variety of generator/source operations have made that approach exceedingly difficult. As a result, the RCRA focuses on the following regulatory mechanisms:

• Identifying wastes that are hazardous to human health and the environment, and capturing them in a cradle-to-grave management system

• Creating physical barriers to isolate the public from contact with identified hazardous wastes

• Minimizing generation of hazardous wastes

• Encouraging reuse, recycling, and treatment of hazardous wastes

• Providing secure disposal for wastes that cannot otherwise be safely managed

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