Improving uncertainty analysis in european union risk assessment of chemicals

Authors

  • Frederik AM Verdonck,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department Applied Mathematics, Biometrics and Process Control, Ghent University, Coupure Links 653, 9000 Gent, Belgium
    2. European Center for Risk Assessment (EURAS), Kortrijksesteenweg 302, 9000 Gent, Belgium
    • Department Applied Mathematics, Biometrics and Process Control, Ghent University, Coupure Links 653, 9000 Gent, Belgium
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  • Astrid Souren,

    1. Institute of Science, Innovation and Society, Faculty of Science, Radboud University Nijmegen, PO Box 9010, 6500 GL Nijmegen, The Netherlands
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  • Marjolein BA van Asselt,

    1. Department of Technology and Society Studies, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Maastricht University, PO Box 616, 6200 MD Maastricht, The Netherlands
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  • Patrick A van Sprang,

    1. European Center for Risk Assessment (EURAS), Kortrijksesteenweg 302, 9000 Gent, Belgium
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  • Peter A Vanrolleghem

    1. Department Applied Mathematics, Biometrics and Process Control, Ghent University, Coupure Links 653, 9000 Gent, Belgium
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Abstract

Handling uncertainty in the current European Union (EU) risk assessment of new and existing substances is problematic for several reasons. The known or quantifiable sources of uncertainty are mainly considered. Uncertainty is insufficiently, explicitly communicated to risk managers and decision makers but hidden and concealed in risk quotient numbers that appear to be certain and, therefore, create a false sense of certainty and protectiveness. The new EU chemical policy legislation, REACH, is an opportunity to learn from interdisciplinary thinking in order to evolve to smart risk assessment: an assessment in which awareness and openness to uncertainty is used to produce better characterizations and evaluations of risks. In a smart risk assessment context, quantifying uncertainty is not an aim but just a productive means to refine the assessment or to find alternative solutions for the problem at stake. Guidance and examples are given on how to differentiate, assess, and use uncertainty.

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