This article proposes a conceptual framework for ranking the relative gravity of diverse risks. This framework identifies the moral considerations that should inform the evaluation and comparison of diverse risks. A common definition of risk includes two dimensions: the probability of occurrence and the associated consequences of a set of hazardous scenarios. This article first expands this definition to include a third dimension: the source of a risk. The source of a risk refers to the agents involved in the creation or maintenance of a risk and captures a central moral concern about risks. Then, a scale of risk is proposed to categorize risks along a multidimensional ranking, based on a comparative evaluation of the consequences, probability, and source of a given risk. A risk is ranked higher on the scale the larger the consequences, the greater the probability, and the more morally culpable the source. The information from the proposed comparative evaluation of risks can inform the selection of priorities for risk mitigation.
The last few decades have seen increasingly widespread use of risk assessment and management techniques as aids in making complex decisions. However, despite the progress that has been made in risk science, there still remain numerous examples of risk-based decisions and conclusions that have caused great controversy. In particular, there is a great deal of debate surrounding risk assessment: the role of values and ethics and other extra-scientific factors, the efficacy of quantitative versus qualitative analysis, and the role of uncertainty and incomplete information. Many of the epistemological and methodological issues confronting risk assessment have been explored in general systems theory, where techniques exist to manage such issues. However, the use of systems theory and systems analysis tools is still not widespread in risk management. This article builds on the Alachlor risk assessment case study of Brunk, Haworth, and Lee to present a systems-based view of the risk assessment process. The details of the case study are reviewed and the authors' original conclusions regarding the effects of extra-scientific factors on risk assessment are discussed. Concepts from systems theory are introduced to provide a mechanism with which to illustrate these extra-scientific effects The role of a systems study within a risk assessment is explained, resulting in an improved view of the problem formulation process The consequences regarding the definition of risk and its role in decision making are then explored.
There has been considerable scientific effort to understand the potential link between exposures to power-frequency electric and magnetic fields (EMF) and the occurrence of cancer and other diseases. The combination of widespread exposures, established biological effects from acute, high-level exposures, and the possibility of leukemia in children from low-level, chronic exposures has made it both necessary and difficult to develop consistent public health policies. In this article we review the basis of both numeric standards and precautionary-based approaches. While we believe that policies regarding EMF should indeed be precautionary, this does not require or imply adoption of numeric exposure standards. We argue that cutpoints from epidemiologic studies, which are arbitrarily chosen, should not be used as the basis for making exposure limits due to a number of uncertainties. Establishment of arbitrary numeric exposure limits undermines the value of both the science-based numeric EMF exposure standards for acute exposures and precautionary approaches. The World Health Organization's draft Precautionary Framework provides guidance for establishing appropriate public health policies for power-frequency EMF.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) has developed an inhalation unit risk factor (URF) for 1,3-butadiene based on leukemia mortality in an updated epidemiological study on styrene-butadiene rubber production workers conducted by researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Exposure estimates were updated and an exposure estimate validation study as well as dose-response modeling were conducted by these researchers. This information was not available to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency when it prepared its health assessment of 1,3-butadiene in 2002. An extensive analysis conducted by TCEQ discusses dose-response modeling, estimating risk for the general population from occupational workers, estimating risk for potentially sensitive subpopulations, effect of occupational exposure estimation error, and use of mortality rates to predict incidence. The URF is 5.0 x 10(-7) per microg/m(3) or 1.1 x 10(-6) per ppb and is based on a Cox regression dose-response model using restricted continuous data with age as a covariate, and a linear low-dose extrapolation default approach using the 95% lower confidence limit as the point of departure. Age-dependent adjustment factors were applied to account for possible increased susceptibility for early life exposure. The air concentration at 1 in 100,000 excess leukemia mortality, the no-significant-risk level, is 20 microg/m(3) (9.1 ppb), which is slightly lower than the TCEQ chronic reference value of 33 microg/m(3) (15 ppb) protective of ovarian atrophy. These values will be used to evaluate ambient air monitoring data so the general public is protected against adverse health effects from chronic exposure to 1,3-butadiene.
Many systems analysts will be surprised to encounter a program which is billed as a fault-tree development program "perform[ing] logical mathematical operations," but which does not perform Boolean reduction. The rather careful wording quoted in the introduction to this review can, in retrospect, be taken to refer to the fact that gates are quantified using formulas from the calculus of probabilities, and not to claim that Boolean reduction is performed. Since this program does not perform Boolean reduction, its use is limited to essentially graphical applications of the type illustrated in Fig. 1. For this limited application, the program has some features which make it attractive; it is easy to develop and print a passable drawing of a fault tree, and it is easy to do "what-if" analyses (looking at the effects of changing connections or statistics). However, for fault-tree analyses of even moderate complexity, a Boolean processor is necessary (a large fault tree for a real problem in which no events are repeated is arguably a pathological case). Many such algorithms exist on DOS machines, and most of them run within (and are limited to) the usual 640k memory limitation. To be fair, it has to be noted that some commercial algorithms of this type cost far, far more than FaultrEASE (their costs are measured in thousands of dollars rather than hundreds).(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)
The Rice-MD Anderson group uses a two-stage clonal expansion (TSCE) model of lung cancer mortality calibrated to a combination of MD Anderson case-control data on smoking histories and lung cancer mortality/incidence rate data collected from prospective cohorts in order to predict risk of lung cancer. This model is used to simulate lung cancer mortality in the U.S. population under the three scenarios of CISNET lung group's smoking base case project in order to estimate the effect of tobacco control policy on lung cancer mortality rates. Simulation results show that tobacco control policies have achieved 35% of the reduction in lung cancer mortality that would have resulted from cessation of all smoking in 1965.
September 11 created a natural experiment that enables us to track the psychological effects of a large-scale terror event over time. The archival data came from 8,070 participants of 10 ABC and CBS News polls collected from September 2001 until September 2006. Six questions investigated emotional, behavioral, and cognitive responses to the events of September 11 over a five-year period. We found that heightened responses after September 11 dissipated and reached a plateau at various points in time over a five-year period. We also found that emotional, cognitive, and behavioral reactions were moderated by age, sex, political affiliation, and proximity to the attack. Both emotional and behavioral responses returned to a normal state after one year, whereas cognitively-based perceptions of risk were still diminishing as late as September 2006. These results provide insight into how individuals will perceive and respond to future similar attacks.
Public and political opposition have made finding locations for new nuclear power plants, waste management, and nuclear research and development facilities a challenge for the U.S. government and the nuclear industry. U.S. government-owned properties that already have nuclear-related activities and commercial nuclear power generating stations are logical locations. Several studies and utility applications to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission suggest that concentrating locations at major plants (CLAMP) has become an implicit siting policy. We surveyed 2,101 people who lived within 50 miles of 11 existing major nuclear sites and 600 who lived elsewhere in the United States. Thirty-four percent favored CLAMP for new nuclear power plants, 52% for waste management facilities, and 50% for new nuclear laboratories. College educated, relatively affluent male whites were the strongest CLAMP supporters. They disproportionately trusted those responsible for the facilities and were not worried about existing nuclear facilities or other local environmental issues. Notably, they were concerned about continuing coal use. Not surprisingly, CLAMP proponents tended to be familiar with their existing local nuclear site. In short, likely CLAMP sites have a large and politically powerful core group to support a CLAMP policy. The challenge to proponents of nuclear technologies will be to sustain this support and expand the base among those who clearly are less connected and receptive to new nearby sites.