From: Ralph Stuart <rstuartcih**At_Symbol_Here**>
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] Health risk assessment
Date: Fri, 26 Dec 2014 10:39:57 -0500
Reply-To: DCHAS-L <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**MED.CORNELL.EDU>
Message-ID: 0B30A19F-FB6B-43F2-BD51-16178D616D02**At_Symbol_Here**
In-Reply-To <12854786.1419487913285.JavaMail.root**At_Symbol_Here**>

> >1. Have the results of a "health risk assessment" like the one outlined above
> ever been confirmed by experiment?
> >2. If the answer to the above question is no, then is the process described
> above consistent with the scientific method?
> >3. If the process of "health risk assessment" described above is not consistent
> with the scientific method, then why don't the authors of "health risk
> assessment" reports include a statement to that effect in their reports

I worked through similar questions with a community group around formaldehyde emissions from a local facility for about 3 years in the 1990's. One of the things I learned from that experience is that because the scientific method is open-ended, it isn't a decision-making tool. Science can provide information that decision-makers can consider as part of a health risk assessment, but it doesn't provide answers to specific questions. This is particularly true in cases where the impacted community is much smaller than the population required to see statistical impacts, which is the most common situation.

I think that the reason that this statement doesn't appear in the reports is that the writers of the report implicitly understand that their decision includes a component of professional judgement (in part, because of the outstanding questions Paul enumerated). This judgement is usually couched in bureaucratic language which refers to the legal criteria associated with this judgement rather than being based on scientific authority. As I said, it took me three years of discussions with state regulators to understand this implicit assumption they were making.

Perhaps that's helpful.

- Ralph

Ralph Stuart

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