Primer on Environmental Risk Analysis, A

Jason F. Shogren
December 1990  [90-SR 46]

Throughout history, hazardous material has represented a risk to individuals. The task of regulating risk can be overwhelming. A regulator must interpret and coordinate a wide variety of information from experts and the lay public. To aid the regulator, the loosely coordinated field of environmental risk analysis has evolved.

This paper provides a nontechnical examination of the four steps in the analysis of risks associated with an environmental hazard. The steps are (1) risk assessment--the use of scientific data to quantify risk, (2) risk perception--the manner in which individuals or societies perceive risk, (3) risk valuation--monetary valuation of reductions in risk, and (4) risk management--controlling risk in the "best" interests of societies. Each step is examined in terms of its tasks and possible problems. The paper provides a reference for regulators who must understand both the insights and the limitations of environmental risk analysis.

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