SETAC Globe - Environmental Quality Through Science
  7 November 2013
Volume 14 Issue 11

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Risk and Management—How Is Hazard to Be Controlled?

Noriyuki Suzuki, SETAC Asia/Pacific Board Member

This year I became a board member of SETAC Asia/Pacific. It is my pleasure and honor to contribute to the activities of SETAC in a new way. I work at the Center for Environmental Risk Research of the National Institute for Environmental Studies in Tsukuba, Japan.

Over the past 10 years, my research has been focused on GIS-based multimedia fate modeling. Our Grid-Catchment Integrated Modeling System (G-CIEMS) is a spatially resolved model that is geographically based on river network structure. I have presented outcomes of our modeling studies at several SETAC meetings. I have had fantastic experiences hearing new discussions on the research outputs at the meetings. I really appreciate all suggestions given by SETAC members.

I also have had the pleasure of serving national and international organizations as a scientific expert on exposure, transport, modeling and management frameworks. Through those experiences I now feel that hazardous substance risk management (mainly hazardous chemicals, but recently including radioactive substances from accidental releases of nuclear power plants in Fukushima, Japan) might require more site-specificity than has been available in the past.  

As an example, a typical generic multimedia model implicitly defines site-specificity (or lack thereof) of exposure analyses. These tools, while convenient, are not necessarily applicable to or consistent with efforts to use real, site-specific spatial context to inform risk management decisions. Moreover, generic models for industrial chemical risk assessment might not accurately represent the scientific and social context of the risk evaluation. Another way of looking at this is that the term “risk” may not have consistent or clear definition in a variety of communications, which sometimes results in major confusion.

In summary, I believe that the fundamental study of hazardous material risk assessment and management should carefully reconsider the nature of toxicity information, exposure information and the role of social context in assessing and managing risk. Those discussions may include topics such as how to define hazard and risk, how to select a precautionary or risk-based approach, whether we employ deterministic or discourse-based management, and how collaboration among a wide-range of sciences and society can be improved to better address relevant issues of hazardous substance risk management. SETAC is an important global venue to discuss such issues, and I hope we will increasingly contribute to hazardous materials risk assessment and management through SETAC Asia/Pacific's regional and global activities.

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