Risk Assessment for Benefits Analysis
Among the important types of information considered in decision making at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are the outputs of risk assessments and benefit-cost analyses. Risk assessments present estimates of the adverse consequences of exposure to environmental pollutants, including both human health and ecological effects. Benefit-cost analyses present estimates of the benefits of actions taken to reduce exposures to pollutants, and of the corresponding costs of those actions. There is an important relationship between the two types of analyses, as economic analysis generally relies on the outputs of risk assessments for the quantification of benefits. However, EPA risk assessments utilizing non-linear dose response approaches do not provide the quantitative estimates of the expected incidence of adverse effects in a population at different levels of exposure needed for benefits analysis. Consequently, EPA has initiated an effort known as Risk Assessment for Benefits Analysis (RABA), in which a workgroup of EPA risk assessors and economists are evaluating methods for expanding the use of risk assessment information in economic benefits analysis. As an initial step, the workgroup is developing an interdisciplinary case study for a chemical that causes hypothyroidism and thyroid cancer. Future plans for RABA include the preparation of additional case studies and guidance on conducting human health benefits analysis.