Environmental risk management seeks to determine what environmental risks exist and then determine how to manage those risk in a way best suited to protect human health and the environment.
As described in EPA’s Risk Characterization Handbook, risk managementRisk ManagementThe process of deciding whether and how to manage risks. Risk management requires consideration of legal, economic and behavioral factors, as well as ecological, human health and welfare effects of each decision/management alternative. Management may involve regulatory and non-regulatory responses. (source: CRS 2005) is the process which evaluates how to protect public health. Examples of risk management actions include deciding how much of a substance a company may discharge into a river; deciding which substances may be stored at a hazardous waste disposal facility; deciding to what extent a hazardous waste site must be cleaned up; setting permit levels for discharge, storage, or transport; establishing national ambient air quality standards; and determining allowable levels of contamination in drinking water.
Risk assessment provides information on potential health or ecological risks, and risk management is the action taken based on consideration of that and other information, as follows:
- Scientific factors provide the basis for the risk assessment, including information drawn from toxicology, chemistry, epidemiology, ecology, and statistics - to name a few.
- Economic factors inform the manager on the cost of risks and the benefits of reducing them, the costs of risk mitigation or remediation options and the distributional effects.
- Laws and legal decisions are factors that define the basis for the Agency’s risk assessments, management decisions, and, in some instances, the schedule, level or methods for risk reduction.
- Social factors, such as income level, ethnic background, community values, land use, zoning, availability of health care, life style, and psychological condition of the affected populations, may affect the susceptibility of an individual or a definable group to risks from a particular stressor.
- Technological factors include the feasibility, impacts, and range of risk management options.
- Political factors are based on the interactions among branches of the Federal government, with other Federal, state, and local government entities, and even with foreign governments; these may range from practices defined by Agency policy and political administrations through inquiries from members of Congress, special interest groups, or concerned citizens.
- Public values reflect the broad attitudes of society about environmental risks and risk management.
Learn more about EPA’s Risk Characterization Handbook.
Below are links to a few risk management tools used by EPA management to inform decisions makers:
- EPA. 2015. How to Better Prepare Your Community for a Chemical Emergency A Guide for State, Tribal and Local Agencies. (EPA-0-F-15-002), Washington, DC.
- EPA. 2000. Learning to Listen: A Cooperative Approach to Developing Innovative Strategies. (EPA-231-R-00-004), Washington, DC.
- EPA. 1998. Ecological Research Strategy (EPA-600-R-98-086), Washington, DC.
- EPA. 1992. Environmental Equity: Reducing Risk for all Communities. (EPA-230-R-92-008), Washington, DC.