The process through which potential adverse effects of human exposures to hazardous activities or agents are systematically and scientifically characterizes is known as risk assessment. Both public and private organizations greatly rely on risk assessment when making risk management decisions. Performing a complete risk assessment is always a dreadful task that requires an extensive collection of data by qualified researchers. Deciding whether risk assessment results should be used for making risk management decisions depends on the importance of the problem being analyzed and the impact of the given scientific issues on the lives of human beings. Risk assessments normally have a number of limitations that government agencies tend to ignore when making risk management decisions (Van der Sluijs et al., 2005).
Risk assessment is currently used to examine the relevance of toxicity to human beings, account for differences in population exposures, describe uncertainties among populations, evaluate risks of chemical mixtures, and assess risks of radiation and harmful micro-organisms to human beings. Specifically, exposure assessments are often based on many assumptions and invalidated mathematical models that greatly interfere with the validity and reliability of data obtained. The simplicity and complexity of exposure assessments depends on the existing risk management. According to Van der Sluijs et al. (2005), exposure assessments are based n assumptions that focus on individual chemicals.
Furthermore, predictions about population’s exposure are often done using unvalidated mathematical models. State’s decision makers build these mathematical models based on limited information obtained from different populations. The results obtained fail to give the actual exposure magnitudes which make it difficult to identify the variability that exists among populations. Another limitation of unvalidated mathematical models used in exposure assessments is the fact that they fail to incorporate other sources of exposure and the relationships between exposure sources (The Presidential/Congressional Commission on Risk Assessment and Risk Management).
Prior to using exposure assessment to make risk management decisions, State’s decision makers need to ensure that designs of exposure assessment can help them to meet risk management decisions. As Van der Sluijs et al. (2005) put it, risk assessments are different with the main sources of variation being their contents and design. Some exposure assessments are complex while others are simple. State’s decision makers sometimes rely on simplistic estimates of exposure obtained from limited data, numerous assumptions and insufficiently validated mathematical models.
Conversely, some exposure assessments are too complex to provide information needed to make clear risk management decisions. In order to use exposure assessments to make useful risk management decisions, State’s decision makers must design their exposure assessments to address a specific issue and that can be use to make uncomplicated risk management decisions. The design of exposure assessment should be determined at the beginning of the assessment to avoid complications that may arise during decision making (The Presidential/Congressional Commission on Risk Assessment and Risk Management).
Another thing that State’s decision makers must be aware of is that meaningful decisions are normally obtained from realistic exposure scenarios. However, many decision makers have used estimated risks obtained from nonexistent situations because of fear of documenting minimal exposures. When they do so, they tend to ignore information about the magnitude and frequency of population exposures. The use of less extreme exposure scenarios to make risk management decision may give unrealistic information which may not be useful in assisting a given population (The Presidential/Congressional Commission on Risk Assessment and Risk Management).
According to Van der Sluijs et al., (2005), exposure assessment should not be conducted using hypothetical exposure situations. Again, those conducting exposure assessments should not only rely on populations with maximum exposures but they should use representative estimates in to examine chemical exposures in their geographic areas of interest. Risk management decisions should be made using refined data that reflects a uniform exposure distribution across populations (Van der Sluijs et al., 2005). Additionally, State’s decision makers should rely on actual data obtained from the field but not on assumptions obtained from theoretical situations. Much emphasis must be laid on the actual characteristics of a given population as this information may be used to predict future exposures (European Commission, 2013).
Risk management decisions can greatly be useful if they are used by the government to assist highly exposed populations. Therefore, exposure assessments should seek to identify highly exposed populations for the most appropriate protective measures to be implemented. Certain populations are at higher risk of chemical exposures than others and this variation is associated with differences in eating habits, occupational exposures, behavior patterns, and cultural practices across populations (The Presidential/Congressional Commission on Risk Assessment and Risk Management). Ideally, risk management decision should always be made by focusing on high-risk subpopulations. Unfortunately, State’s decision makers rarely seek for relevant information from citizens and therefore fail to consider specific exposure conditions found in different settings such as among minority group populations, communities of given socio-economic status, and populations with different types of occupations (European Commission, 2013).
According to Van der Sluijs et al. (2005), the risks of chemical exposure can result from increased doses as well as differences in contaminant concentrations. It is therefore important that risk assessments be conducted with the aim of identifying populations that are at higher risks of chemical exposure than others. In order to obtain relevant information about the actual sources of exposures, the affected parties should be involved directly to identify various exposure factors that exist across populations. The information obtained can be used by State’s decision makers to identify the best method of limiting chemical exposures among populations that are at a higher risk of exposure than others (European Commission, 2013).
A good exposure assessment should account for variations in susceptibility to assist State’s decision makers to understand how to handle different populations that are at risk of chemical exposure. For example, genetic and metabolic variations can make some populations more susceptible to chemical exposures than others. Unfortunately, individual information on differences in susceptibility is not included in the current regulatory approaches that are concerned with reducing risks of chemical exposures. The absence of specific information about susceptibility makes exposure assessments to rely on assumptions, thereby preventing protection of sensitive individuals (The Presidential/Congressional Commission on Risk Assessment and Risk Management).
Therefore, risk assessments should include susceptibility factors as way of recognizing variations among populations especially with reference to chemical exposures. Instead of basing their decision on assumptions, State’s decision makers should use information obtained from a range of populations in order to make specific risk management decisions that can help protect those populations (European Commission, 2013).
In conclusion, risk assessments provide very useful information for making risk management decisions. For example, exposure assessments give information that is used by State’s decision makers to make risk management decisions that aim at limiting chemical exposures. Unfortunately, exposure risk assessments are always based on many assumptions and validations that may prevent the usefulness of risk management decisions made by State’s decision makers. People who are charged with the responsibility of conducting risk assessments need to be conversant with the limitations of using risk assessment in risk management decision making presented in this paper, in order to make necessary corrections when doing their work.