Risk-Risk Balancing for Hazardous Waste Workers: Alternative Work, Traffic Fatalities, and Unemployment


*Address correspondence to Michael Gochfeld, Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute of UMDNJ, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Consortium for Risk Evaluation with Stakeholder Participation, Piscataway, NJ 08854; gochfeld@eohsi.rutgers.edu


Previous studies have shown that the fatality rate among hazardous waste remediation workers is likely to exceed the fatality rate averted among the public by remediation. The implication is that much hazardous waste remediation is inappropriate on a strictly risk-based basis. Such analyses ignore the fact that the same hazardous waste workers would be engaged in other work with similar or perhaps greater safety risks, and that in any case the single greatest cause of occupational fatalities is traffic accidents, hence distance traveled may be a more important predictor than type of work performed.