Expanding the scope of environmental risk assessment to better include differential vulnerability and susceptibility

Am J Public Health. 2011 Dec;101 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):S88-93. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2011.300268. Epub 2011 Oct 20.


The central paradigm of the Environmental Protection Agency is risk assessment. We examined how differential responses across population groups could be better integrated into the environmental risk assessment process, providing tools to achieve greater equity in health status in addition to risk reduction. Such integration was difficult with paradigms like reference dose and was easier with consideration of dose-response curves, which incorporated nontrivial effects observed at low doses for common exposures. We identified 6 assumptions implicit in standard chemical risk assessments that should changed: (1) risk independence, (2) risk averaging, (3) risk nontransferability, (4) risk synchrony, (5) risk accumulation and chaining, and (6) quantification of numbers of persons above certain thresholds or limit values sufficient to characterize risk.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Disease Susceptibility*
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Risk Assessment*
  • United States
  • United States Environmental Protection Agency
  • Vulnerable Populations*