are the Department of Energy nuclear weapons production sites in this country and, even more so, the nasty situations in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.
Finally, we must somehow engage everyone, through the media and through our communities, to translate interest and support for protection of health and environment into core values and personal responsibility. At an international level, we need to draw the United States and all other countries together to share objectives, to achieve harmonization of test methods and risk assessment for chemicals and other hazards, to recognize ways in which environmental issues may be used or misused in trade negotiations under new trade agreements, and to bring the environment into the center of discussions about international relations and economic development.
Risk is the coin of the realm in protecting health and the environment. Risk assessment, risk communication, and risk reduction strategies can help us determine priorities and help to persuade those who are paying, basically the taxpayers and consumers, that there is a decent return on our investment in risk management.
We are stretching beyond the limits of science to discuss risk. So it is not surprising that scientists disagree on risk estimates or on what should be done, if anything, to reduce those risks. Nevertheless, the public finds such disagreement disconcerting, and the cartoonists mock us!
In assessing health and ecological risks, we are stretching our knowledge of mechanisms and our capabilities below the range of exposures subject to the direct observations or experiments that are the domain of science. The extrapolation to low dose exposures reflects models, assumptions, speculation, and judgment. We need to explain better what is known and what is speculated.
Risk assessment has been developed to address several different kinds of tasks. First, the laws covering pharmaceuticals and pesticides require that the responsible federal regulatory agencies (FDA and EPA) balance risks and benefits. Anticancer drugs, antimicrobial agents, and pesticides are designed to be toxic to living things. Balancing the benefits and risks depends on the margin of safety, patterns of use, and appropriate protections. Other laws, such as the Clean Air Act, do not explicitly authorize balancing benefits and risks.
A second risk management strategy is to set target levels of risk, usually as federal guidance to the states. Devolution to the states will be an increasing theme over the next few years, probably for the 25-year period you are addressing. There will be more and more responsibility laid on states and localities, which will have to come together to deal with the fact that environmental pollution does not respect geographic or political boundaries.
This strategy is used for food contaminants and water pollutants. Target levels