Risk Management

Risk assessment estimates the magnitude and type of risk from exposure to a potentially hazardous chemical. The government frequently decides to manage the risk. Public decision-makers are called upon to make the judgments: to synthesize the scientific, social, economical, and political factors and determine the acceptable risk for society. They need to reexamine the issues raised in risk assessment and address the following questions:

• Is the chemical economically important or essential?

• Is there a safer alternative?

• Is the risk of chemical exposure voluntary or involuntary?

• Can exposure be reduced?

• What are the benefits associated with use of this chemical?

• Are those individuals or societies subjected to risks the ones receiving the benefits?

• What are the costs of avoidance?

• What are the public perceptions of the risk?

• What level of risk is acceptable?

• Are some risks perceived as unacceptable no matter what the benefits?

Over the years, many laws have been enacted to protect human health, safety, and the environment, providing a basic framework for risk management decisions. Each law reflects state-of-the-art understanding at the time of its enactment, as well as the political concerns and the public perceptions at that time. Regulators must make their decisions within the constraints of the applicable laws. These laws generally do not prescribe risk assessment methodologies. However, many environmental laws do provide very specific risk management directives.

Statutory risk management mandates can be divided into roughly three categories: pure-risk; technology-based standards; and reasonableness of risks balanced with benefits.

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