Environmental risk assessment and the intrusion of bias

Ball, David J. ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-1681-3455 (2002) Environmental risk assessment and the intrusion of bias. Environment International, 28 (6) . pp. 529-544. ISSN 0160-4120 [Article] (doi:10.1016/S0160-4120(02)00061-2)


The concept of managing the environment and any associated human health impacts by means of such science-based tools as toxicological evaluation, risk assessment, and economic appraisal has become widely accepted in professional circles. These increasingly complex methodologies have not won universal support, however, even among the technically minded, and the wider public has in many cases remained sceptical. The public's seeming lack of enthusiasm has frequently been assigned to ignorance of science, irrationality even, and some attempts have been made to ameliorate the situation by means of education, though with little evidence of success. However, this review advances an alternative explanation, namely, that the disenchantment has more to do with procedural than technical matters. Many issues, although treated with technical risk assessment, appear to have forced themselves onto the agenda because of factors only passingly connected with risk, and which are more related to the intrusion of disputed values and other sources of bias. This paper also notes that the intervention of bias in decision making is rife, and is found as much in professional as in public approaches. This need not itself be a problem, providing it is recognised and openly expressed. However, there remains a need for much greater circumspection and frankness by professions about the status of their art, and a determined effort if the full social benefits of environmental risk assessment (ERA) are to be realised.

Item Type: Article
Research Areas: A. > School of Science and Technology
A. > School of Science and Technology > Centre for Decision Analysis and Risk Management (DARM)
ISI Impact: 3
Item ID: 235
Useful Links:
Depositing User: Repository team
Date Deposited: 30 Oct 2008 12:24
Last Modified: 13 Oct 2016 14:11
URI: https://eprints.mdx.ac.uk/id/eprint/235

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