Journal of Toxiocology and Environmental Health (JTEH)

Risk Management Frameworks
for Human Health and Environmental Risks

The special issue of the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part B (volume 6: 569-641) in 2003  represents a comprehensive analytical review of the  approaches to risk assessment, risk management and risk communications that were developed by key provincial, national and international agencies. In addition there is a detailed analysis of 12 selected key frameworks.

The concept of “risk assessment and risk management” is a relatively new concept that was formally accepted for the last 20-30 years.  One of the earliest milestones in the evolution of risk assessment and risk management is the guidelines for cancer risk assessment published by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1976. Other key frameworks, which were identified by the research team after examining more than 80 agencies, organizations and advisory councils from February 2000-November 2002 are also presented in this issue. In addition to EPA, agencies that  contributed to this field include Health Canada, the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), Codex Alimentarious Commission (CAC) and the US Department of Energy (DOE).  The frameworks reviewed in this report include both  the most important general frameworks for risk  assessment, risk management and risk communication for human health, ecological and occupational health risk, as well as frameworks developed for specific applications of risks such as  (1) contaminated sites;  (2) contaminants in the North; (3) priority substances (4) standards development; (5) food safety; (6) medical devices; (7) prescription drug use; (8) emergency response; (9) transportation; and (10) risk communication.

 Because each agency attempts to develop their own process for approaching risk assessment and management, frameworks are found to vary considerably. Based on 6 criteria including the representation of the three areas of human health, ecological  and occupational health risk,  and the relevance to Canadian risk management needs, 12 frameworks were selected for a more extensive review. The 12 frameworks were analyzed for strengths and weaknesses, limitations, similarities as well as differences. Seven main elements were identified as crucial and need to be included in a comprehensive framework for risk assessment and risk management. For example, stakeholder involvement and informed decision making are two key elements that need to be included in successful risk assessment and management processes.  A checklist for sound risk management decision making is also proposed.

Finally, 10 decision making principles compiled from Hrudey (2000), Hattis (1996) and other authors were proposed. These principles were discussed along with illustrative case examples and are intended to be inspirational rather than descriptive, bearing in mind that their implementation required flexibility and practical judgment. Two examples of these principles include ethical guidance principles such as “do more good than harm” and the recognition of the fact that life is not risk free since “the complete elimination of risk is not possible”.

Because a single approach in risk management can not satisfy the diverse areas to which risk decisions are being applied, the authors emphasized the importance of applying an approach that meets the needs of an agency’s specific application while ensuring the inclusion of key elements and principles that are discussed in this review.

Jardine,  C.J., Hrudey, S.E., Shortreed, J.H., Craig, L., Krewski, D., Furgal, C., McColl, S. 2003 Risk Management Frameworks for Human Health and Environmental Risks. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part B 6: 569-641.

Published twenty-four times per year, the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part A features strictly refereed original research in the field of environmental toxicology in general as well as in special interest fields such as target organ toxicities, immunotoxicology, risk assessment, carcinogenesis, mutagenesis, ecotoxicology, environmental factors affecting health, and aquatic toxicology.

Subscription information for the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part A or a sample copy can be obtained from the address below.  To view the special issue (Vol. 66, Number 16-19), go to

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To submit an article, contact:
Dr. Sam Kacew
McLaughlin Centre for Population Health Risk Assessment
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University of Ottawa
Ottawa, Ontario
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