Articles

Risk within reason

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Science  04 May 1990:
Vol. 248, Issue 4955, pp. 559-564
DOI: 10.1126/science.2333509

Abstract

Advances in low-level risk detection threaten to engulf us with information. Regulators typically respond to each newly highlighted risk, whether painstakingly uncovered through scientific investigation or divulged with fanfare by the media, on an ad hoc basis. This response makes it hard to relate disparate risks to the overall risk level and impedes intelligent risk reduction, which must consider the costs and benefits involved. Efficient risk management requires decisions not only about what to regulate and how stringently, but also about the appropriate division of labor among the agents influencing risks. These agents include individuals, whose potential contributions too often are overlooked, corporations, and government.