Assessing Risks to Health: Methodological Approaches

Assessing Risks to Health: Methodological Approaches

Assessing Risks to Health: Methodological Approaches

Assessing Risks to Health: Methodological Approaches

Synopsis

Prepared under the auspices of the Department of Health and Human Services, this examination of the methodologies used in assessing health hazards offers important background on the rationale of risk assessment. It uses ten high profile risk areas to compare measurement approaches. There are challenges in the choice of what to assess and in what priority to give a particular human health risk in light of the array and diversity of health hazards. What methodology to employ in a given assessment also poses difficult decisions for researchers and for government policymakers, The latter must, of course, depend on sound qualitative and quantitative risk assessment to formulate appropriate risk management positions.

Excerpt

Risk assessment is a major activity of the government's health and regulatory agencies. The qualitative and quantitative assessment of the risks to human health posed by a wide variety of personal and environmental exposures has become a necessary prerequisite to government decisions on the activities it will undertake, or encourage private individuals and groups to undertake, to manage those risks. The stakes in risk management decisions--whether measured in terms of health, personal well-being, or social and economic costs--can be high, and the methods used to assess risk must provide estimates that have the full and justified confidence of both policymakers and the public.

Many agencies of the government are involved in making determinations about health risks. Most of the Department of Health and Human Service's (DHHS) Public Health Service (PHS) agencies are involved, including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA); the National Institutes of Health (NIH); the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration (ADAMHA); the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR); and certain divisions of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health. Other federal agencies also conduct risk assessments, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the Department of Transportation (DOT), the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). In addition, risk assessments are developed by state and local governments, in universities, and by private business.

Governmental risk assessments are conducted for a variety of reasons. Often, they are part of the process of regulating exposure to physical or chemical hazards, either preemptively through premarketing review and approval of a . . .

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