Risk Characterization Essay

Risk Characterization


The articles published by the local newspaper focus on the benefits of proper risk assessment and risk characterization. The articles indicate what problems can arise if the risk characterization is not done in the proper context and the failure of cities in observing risk characterization properly. This paper explains risk characterization, the benefits associated with risk characterization done in proper context and the problems and limitations in risk characterization.

Risk Characterization Must Be done In Proper Context

Risk characterization is an important part of the risk assessment process which judges findings of the risk assessment process for decision makers concerning the level and character of human health and ecological risks. Risk characterization is the last part of risk assessment and provides a summary of the findings from the risk assessment components of hazard identification, dose-response assessment and exposure assessment. Risk characterization should be done in a proper context to reveal the true risks involved in a project not in general terms for the risk managers to evaluate the ecological and human health risks more definitely.

The information relating to the risk assessment should be specific and relevant to the current situation for the risk characterization to be effective. The clarity, comparability and consistency aspects of risk assessment are stressed to avoid any confusion from the results. The numerical analysis if any should be detailed with descriptive information to promote objective and stable characterization of risk (Fowle, J.; Dearfield, K., 2000).

The Aftermaths of Risk Characterization When Not Done Properly

The two main problems which can occur when risk characterization is not done in proper context are the lack of clarity and comparability. As it was discussed earlier the characterization should be done in proper context specific to the current situation. When the risks cannot be compared to other risks the characterization becomes irrelevant. One specific average taken from a huge amount of data can only be comparable to another single average in a similar data which would be quite complicated and render the characterization irrelevant.

The other problem is of misunderstanding the level of riskiness if the assessment and characterization is more of a general nature than a specific one. For example the risk characterization of a nuclear power plant has to be very specific in each and every aspect; if the characterization is general in this case it would be quite hard for the risk managers and other stakeholders to realize the levels of risk involved (Ohanian & Moore, 1997).

Uses and Limitations of Toxicity, Exposure and Ecological Risk Assessment

Toxicity assessment measures the chemical risks involved in a situation and what the level of risk related to chemicals is in a given problem. The relationship between the dose and its effects on the organism is evaluated while the limitation of toxicity is that evaluation of only the risks related to chemicals is done and major steps have to be taken for the accurate interpretation of risks involved with different doses of chemicals. Exposure assessment covers the level and pattern of exposure of human beings and other species to an environment and the components of that environment. Exposure assessment is limited to the study of risk involved in the exposure whereas the other components such as the dose of a substance in the environment are neglected. Ecological risk assessment on the other hand judges the risks of a project or action on the ecosystems such as ecosystems of oceans and forests.

The assessment checks the effects of different actions on these ecosystems. In ecological risk assessment he risk levels and factors in different ecosystems with respect to each other can be overlooked and there might be adverse results if the ecological assessment is done in the absence of proper toxicity and exposure assessment (U.S Environmental Protection Agency, 2009).

Cost of Proper Risk Characterization

The detailed-response and exposure assessment tends to have higher costs in various cases especially those related to city projects. Perception of cities about high cost of proper risk characterization is true to some extent but the benefits of the characterization are of more value as they would help analyze the risks related to and involved with the projects and situations. Cost can be cut which would make a great deal of resources available but this growth cannot achieve much without the proper knowledge of risks related to this growth. When risk characterization is conducted the cost factor has to be estimated with the benefits of the characterization and not as an individual component (Fowle, J.; Dearfield, K., 2000).

Limitations of Risk Assessment

As it is mentioned proper risk characterization was not conducted and the risk assessment did not include dose-response relationships and exposure assessments in case of cities which leave the projects vulnerable to high level of exposure risks to the human population and the wildlife. If proper risk assessment was conducted the risk characterization would have been complete in every aspect. The cities considered only the high cost of the risk characterization and not the resulting benefits. The risk characterization would have helped in better understanding the level and types of risks associated with these projects for future consideration.

Fowle, J.; Dearfield, K. (2000). Risk Characterization Handbook. Washington D.C: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Ohanian, E., & Moore, J. (1997, August 1). Risk Characterization: A Bridge to Informed Decision Making. Retrieved June 4, 2009, from Toxsci.oxfordjournals.org: http://toxsci.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/reprint/39/2/81.pdf

U.S Environmental Protection Agency. (2009, June 3). Ecological Risk Assessment. Retrieved June 4, 2009, from Epa.gov: http://www.epa.gov/superfund/programs/nrd/era.htm