The Role of Health Risk Assessment and Cost-Benefit Analysis in Environmental Decision Making in Selected Countries: An Initial Survey
This paper seeks to inform the current "regulatory reform" effort in the U.S. by describing how information from risk assessments and cost-benefit analyses is used by decision makers in six other industrialized countries. In Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Canada and the European Union decision makers deal with uncertainties associated with risk assessments differently than in the U.S. They are less likely to employ "default assumptions" to bridge uncertainties and instead tailor risk evaluations to the chemical in question. Furthermore, while U.S. agencies are sometimes required to pair information from risk assessments with data from cost-benefit analyses in order to estimate how much it costs to stem or avert environmental and health effects, the decision makers in the six study regimes primarily use such information to set standards, screen chemicals, and identify potential substitutes for hazardous chemicals. Respondents in the study countries say that both quantitative risk assessment and cost-benefit analysis presently contain too many uncertainties to yield meaningful results. However, trade liberalization and shrinking government budgets are stirring greater interest abroad in how the U.S. conducts and uses risk assessments.
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