SETAC Globe - Environmental Quality Through Science
  10 May 2012
Volume 13 Issue 5

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Global Ecorisk Management from Asian Viewpoints

Katsuya Kawamoto, National Institute for Environmental Studies of Japan

A comprehensive education and research program was conducted at Yokohama National University of Japan in collaboration with the National Institute for Environmental Studies from April 2007 to March 2012. The goal of this program was to present a vision and procedure for risk management through investigations regarding ecosystem functions and effects. Asian viewpoints were emphasized throughout the program. The approaches to understanding environmental risk and decision making in Europe and North America were explored and appeared to differ. From our point of view, in Europe there seems to be greater emphasis placed on the precautionary approach (Rio Declaration Principle 15):

"In order to protect the environment, the precautionary approach shall be widely applied by States according to their capabilities. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation."

However, in North America there seems to be greater emphasis on adaptive management, an approach which, as described by the United States Department of the Interior, involves ongoing, real-time learning and knowledge creation and which as originally defined (Walters 1986) stated that:

"Management of renewable resources should be viewed as an adaptive process; we learn about the potentials of natural populations… mainly through experience with management itself, rather than through basic research or the development of general ecological theory."

The Yokohama National University's program found that Asian viewpoints generally tended to reflect the perspectives of developing countries and to lean toward adaptive risk management.

Against this backdrop, a small international meeting on chemical risk management was held at Yokohama National University on 28 October 2011. The main point of this meeting was that both the properties of particular chemical substances and the environmental conditions to which they are subject are essential determinants of environmental risks. As such, predictive evaluations regarding chemical substances have been a major issue in the area of chemical management. At the same time, it is also important to measure chemical concentrations in the environment, not only to establish the extent of pollution but also to test assessment techniques. With this in mind the integrated assessment of chemical effects on the environment and ecosystems can be thought of as fundamental to global chemical management. Therefore, the facets of this issue were considered and discussed at this meeting.

Two specialists were invited to this meeting to represent western viewpoints: Matthew MacLeod from Stockholm University in Sweden and Kimberly Hageman from the University of Otago in New Zealand.

Scene of the lecture in the meeting.

Dr. MacLeod's lecture was entitled "Quantifying the extent of inter-continental transport of persistent organic chemicals." He talked about simulative global-scale fate and transport modeling using the BETR Global model (global-scale multimedia contaminant fate model). Although he concentrated on PCBs and decamethylcyclopentasiloxane (D5), the same discussion could be applied to any persistent organic pollutants.

Dr. Hageman's lecture, entitled "Using active and passive air samplers to understand the atmospheric transport of organic contaminants," focused on approaches using active, passive, flow-through and natural passive samplers for measuring organic contaminants in the air. She showed interesting measurement examples from New Zealand, the US and Canada and Asia.

The topics discussed by Drs. MacLeod and Hageman dealt well with the subjects of modeling and measurement.

Two Japanese speakers also talked about a basic physical chemistry and life cycle approach for analyzing chemical pollution.

Katsuya Kawamoto spoke on "Properties of chemical substances and application for regional fate modeling." He talked about thermodynamic fundamentals for understanding chemical fate in the environment and phase distribution constants and showed a site-specific fate-modeling example for the pollutant methyltertiary butylether (MTBE).

Shigeki Masunaga made a presentation entitled "Exposure assessment of brominated flame retardant based on material flow analysis." In his lecture, he focused on hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD), thoroughly analyzing the compound using the material flow analysis method from emission into the environment to exposure and uptake by humans.

In a discussion that included the audience, the importance both of modeling and measurement based on physical chemical fundamentals was emphasized, together a life cycle approach. In conclusion, chemical risk can be successfully assessed and managed through the transdisciplinary application of varied principles and technical approaches. This small international meeting contributed to a mutual understanding of the research subject throughout the world.

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