Risk assessment in environmental policy-making

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Science  17 Apr 1987:
Vol. 236, Issue 4799, pp. 286-290
DOI: 10.1126/science.3563508


Environmental policy-making has become more dependent on formal, quantitative risk assessment because of increasing attention to the prevention of human health damage from toxic chemicals. Risk assessment helps set priorities for regulation of the very large numbers of chemicals that are of potential concern and helps direct limited social and government resources against the most significant risks. Although the scientific basis for risk assessment is often uncertain and the public and its representatives have often been confused by its use in regulatory decisions, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency currently uses a variety of risk assessment techniques to set priorities, tailor regulations, and make decisions at particular sites. The Environmental Protection Agency also attempts to make the practice of risk assessment more consistent throughout the agency and to improve public understanding of the meaning of risk assessment and risk management.

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