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Integrating human health and ecological concerns in risk assessments

Journal of Hazardous Materials
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/s0304-3894(00)00214-4
  • Human Health Risk Assessment
  • Ecological Risk Assessment
  • Integrated Assessment
  • Comparative Risk
  • Conceptual Models
  • Risk Assessment Case Studies
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Communication
  • Ecology
  • Physics
  • Political Science


Abstract The interconnections between ecosystems, human health and welfare have been increasingly recognized by the US government, academia, and the public. This paper continues this theme by addressing the use of risk assessment to integrate people into a single assessment. In a broad overview of the risk assessment process we stress the need to build a conceptual model of the whole system including multiple species (humans and other ecological entities), stressors, and cumulative effects. We also propose converging landscape ecology and evaluation of ecosystem services with risk assessment to address these cumulative responses. We first look at how this integration can occur within the problem formulation step in risk assessment where the system is defined, a conceptual model created, a subset of components and functions selected, and the analytical framework decided in a context that includes the management decisions. A variety of examples of problem formulations (salmon, wild insects, hyporheic ecosystems, ultraviolet (UV) radiation, nitrogen fertilization, toxic chemicals, and oil spills) are presented to illustrate how treating humans as components of the landscape can add value to risk assessments. We conclude that the risk assessment process should help address the urgent needs of society in proportion to importance, to provide a format to communicate knowledge and understanding, and to inform policy and management decisions.

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