stage in risk assessment, and greater stakeholder participation) and of technical aspects of risk assessment (for example, unification of cancer and noncancer dose-response assessments, attention to quantitative uncertainty analysis, and development of methods for cumulative risk assessment). The recommendations are tantamount to “change-the-culture” transformations in risk assessment and decision-making in the agency.
EPA’s current institutional structure and resources may pose a challenge to implementation of the recommendations, and moving forward with them will require a commitment to leadership, cross-program coordination and communication, and training to ensure the requisite expertise. That will be possible only if leaders are determined to reverse the downward trend in budgeting, staffing, and training and to making high-quality, risk-based decision-making an agencywide goal.
Recommendation: EPA should initiate a senior-level strategic re-examination of its risk-related structures and processes to ensure that it has the institutional capacity to implement the committee’s recommendations for improving the conduct and utility of risk assessment for meeting the 21st century environmental challenges. EPA should develop a capacity building plan that includes budget estimates required for implementing the committee’s recommendations, including transitioning to and effectively implementing the framework for risk-based decision-making.
Global impacts are combining with the high financial and political stakes of risk management to place unprecedented pressure on risk assessors in EPA. But risk assessment remains essential to the agency’s mission to ensure protection of public health and the environment. Much work is needed to improve the scientific status, utility, and public credibility of risk assessment. The committee’s recommendations focus on designing risk assessments to ensure that they make the best possible use of available science, are technically accurate, and address the appropriate risk-management options effectively to inform risk-based decision-making. The committee hopes that the recommendations and the proposed framework for risk-based decision-making will provide a template for the future of risk assessment in EPA and strengthen the scientific basis, credibility, and effectiveness of future risk-management decisions.