Advancing Risk Assessment: Progress and Ongoing Obstacles

May 24, 2012
1:00 pm US Eastern Time

Slides & Resources

Speaker Presentation Slides

Ted Schettler: Cumulative Risk Assessments: Science and Decisions (PDF)

Lauren Zeise: Science and Decisions Overview (PDF)

Additional Resources

Strengthening Toxic Chemical Risk Assessments to Protect Human Health
National Resources Defense Council
February 2012
The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) issued three groundbreaking reports over the past few years, but their major recommendations -- that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as well as other government agencies such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should make several changes to strengthen their toxic chemical risk assessments -- have not been heeded. In this paper, we make the case that federal agencies should immediately begin to incorporate these changes into their assessments. The public must be protected from diseases due to toxic chemicals in food, water, air, and consumer products.

Phthalates and Cumulative Risk Assessment
The National Academies Press
People are exposed to a variety of chemicals throughout their daily lives. To protect public health, regulators use risk assessments to examine the effects of chemical exposures. This book provides guidance for assessing the risk of phthalates, chemicals found in many consumer products that have been shown to affect the development of the male reproductive system of laboratory animals.

Science and Decisions
Committee on Improving Risk Analysis Approaches Used by the U.S. EPA, National Research Council, 2009
Science and Decisions makes practical scientific and technical recommendations to address these challenges. This book is a complement to the widely used 1983 National Academies book, Risk Assessment in the Federal Government (also known as the Red Book). The earlier book established a framework for the concepts and conduct of risk assessment that has been adopted by numerous expert committees, regulatory agencies, and public health institutions. The new book embeds these concepts within a broader framework for risk-based decision-making. Together, these are essential references for those working in the regulatory and public health fields.

Listen to Recording

Risk assessment has become a dominant public policy tool for evaluating risks associated with exposures to chemicals. A standardized framework for conducting risk assessments, recommended by the National Academy of Sciences in 1983, has been widely adopted and used. Recently, at the request of the US EPA, a committee of the NAS reviewed the process and its nearly 30-year history of implementation, in light of recent scientific advances and long delays in completing risk assessments. The committee concluded that the risk assessment process was "bogged down" and needed significant overhaul to make it more responsive and incorporate contemporary science.

In May 2011 CHE hosted a call “Science and Decisions: How Can We Advance Risk Assessment?” primarily focused that report. This call followed up on that discussion. The three presenters on this call highlighted some of the recommendations as summarized in “Strengthening Toxic Chemical Risk Assessments to Protect Human Health” published in February 2012. Speakers also discussed the status of progress toward the implementation of the proposed recommendations, along with longer-term obstacles that remain in order to more accurately evaluate public health risk.

Featured Speakers

Ted Schettler, MD, MPH, Science Director of CHE, and Science Director of the Science and Environmental Health Network (SEHN); Coordinator of CHE's Science Working Group

Gina Solomon, MD, MPH, has recently been appointed deputy secretary for science and health at the California Environmental Protection Agency. She has been a senior scientist for the Natural Resources Defense Council since 1996 and a clinical professor of health sciences at the University of California, San Francisco since 2011.

Lauren Zeise, PhD, chief, Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), Reproductive and Cancer Hazard Assessment Branch

The call was moderated by Elise Miller, MEd, CHE director.