Based upon available literature, theory, and experience, the committee will provide its best judgment and rationale on how best to use quantitative information on the uncertainty in estimates of risk in order to manage environmental risks to human health and for communicating this information.
Specifically, the committee will address the following questions:
• How does uncertainty influence risk management under different public health policy scenarios?
• What are promising tools and techniques from other areas of decision making on public health policy? What are benefits and drawbacks to these approaches for decision makers at EPA and their partners?
• Are there other ways in which the EPA can benefit from quantitative characterization of uncertainty (e.g., value of information techniques to inform research priorities)?
• What approaches for communicating uncertainty could be used to ensure the appropriate use of this risk information? Are there communication techniques to enhance the understanding of uncertainty among users of risk information like risk managers, journalists, and citizens?
• What implementation challenges would EPA face in adopting these alternative approaches to decision making and communicating uncertainty? What steps should EPA take to address these challenges? Are there interim approaches that EPA could take?
Given that its charge is not limited to human health risk assessment and includes broad questions about managing risks and decision making, in this report the committee examines the analysis of uncertainty in those other areas in addition to human health risks.
Types of Uncertainty
All EPA decisions involve uncertainty, but the type of uncertainty can vary widely from one decision to another. For an analysis of uncertainty to be useful or productive and for decision makers to determine when to invest
2 Consistent with its charge, the committee focuses on “environmental risks to human health” in this report, and does not directly address ecological risk assessment. The committee notes, however, that many of the principles discussed and developed in this report would also apply to decision making related to ecological risks.