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Introduction: Emerging Issues in Hazard Management ROBERT M. WHITE During the 1970s, an environmental ethic that differed from the pre- WorldWarII ethic of utility dominated governmental, industrial, and public approaches to the environment. The new ethic embraced the philosophy that we must learn to live more closely in harmony with the natural environment and that our activities must foster that harmony. Institutionalization of the new environmental ethic was fueled by the conviction that this harmony could be achieved through regulation and strict enforcement (Ruckleshaus, 19851. Federal legislation designed to prevent and remedy environmental pollution was quickly augmented by the passage of state and local laws. These laws manifested the deep public concern for the preservation of environmental quality, the maintenance of reasonable ecological balances in nature, and the protection of human health. Implicit was the belief that, in light ofthe general social benefits that would accrue to all, industry could accommodate the costs of environmental controls during the period of vigorous economic growth that characterized the 1960s and early 1970s. Implicit also was the assumption that values of human health and environmental protection took precedence over other social values. Federal, state, and local legislation led to the creation of government agencies charged with the responsibility for issuing and enforcing environ- mental regulations. Groups concerned about environmental quality stimu- lated legislative bodies and agencies to develop new environmental initia- tives, and industry in turn developed new environmental capabilities to respond to the new regulatory environment. In the changed economic world of the late 1970s, however, some of these
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ROBERTM. WHITE environmental policies became foci of considerable debate. The realization spread that environmental protection is not costless to society and that the allocation of increasingly scarce regulatory and economic resources war- ranted reconsideration of the underlying approaches to assessing and man- aging the environment. We are now in the midst of a national debate about how to assess and manage the quality of the environment and hazards to human health: some urge a rebalancing of conflicting values in arriving at appropriate human health and environmental goals. This view recognizes that the world is fraught with irreducible risks and suggests reassessment of the extent to which we may choose to forgo reducing some risks in order to achieve alternative goals. Public debate over the appropriate balance in environmental regulation has been intensified by recent hazard spectaculars such as Three Mile Island, Love Canal, and Bhopal; governmental and private attempts to prevent and manage such hazards have met with recurrent criticism. The adoption of a new approach to assessing and managing the quality of the environment and hazards to human health is made doubly difficult by the fact that as regula- to~ and economic resources grow scarce, conflicts over distributive equity become acute. To resolve these conflicts and achieve a rational response to environmental hazards, we need to establish a participatory framework that includes those responsible for industrial or economic activities that result in hazards, those responsible for the protection of human health and the preser- vation of environmental quality, and the public at interest. The papers in this volume define some important issues in hazard manage- ment that are emerging during this national reexamination of our environ- mental policies. The authors urge us to recognize that successful manage- ment of technological hazards increasingly depends on resolution of these issues. Symposium contributors have identified three principal themes that reso- nate throughout current public debate about technological hazards. Each of these themes is developed in one of three parts of this volume. Part 1 addresses the question of how to regulate hazards those arising from chronic, low-level exposures and from high-consequence hazards that are estimated to have a low probability of occurrence-when science is unable to estimate or assign causation for the possible consequences of such hazards. Papers by Alvin M. Weinberg, Victor P. Bond, Chris G. Whipple, and Ronald Bayer constitute this section. In Part 2, Eula gingham, Daniel S. Hoffman, Peter W. Huber, Roger E. Kasperson, and Howard C. Kunreuther present several-sometimes conflicting perspectives on fairness in the distribution of the risks and benefits of potentially hazardous technologies.
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lNTRODUCTlON 3 Part 3 presents a set of practical lessons and cautions about managing hazardous technologies. Victoria J. Tschinkel, John A. Klacsmann, John F. Ahearne, and Robert W. Kates describe the ways in which issues raised in the first two parts of the volume are either resolved or, if unresolved, serve as impediments to effective hazard management. The authors presented in this volume raise certain important issues that cut across the three major topics. The first relates to the influence of the value system of the expert on technical judgments about risk and the consequences for scientific credibility and regulatory policy. Weinberg discusses situations in which expert judgments about scientific truth are significantly affected by the value system of the scientist. Bayer details the evolution of the occupational standard for airborne lead and, in doing so, describes how conflict among expert witnesses can derive from value-centered interpretations of inconclusive data. Similarly, Whipple argues that the use of conservative risk-assessment assumptions by scientists in regulatory agencies can derive from scientists' personal values and not from sound data bases. Finally, Ahearne cautions scientists and engineers against advocacy, which, in his view, erodes public trust in the neutrality of expert witnesses and inhibits informed public debate about hazards. He calls upon scientists, engineers, and regulators to consider when and to what extent such cautions are appropriate. A second issue is the allocation of resources devoted to managing techno- logical hazards. While it is important to reduce scientific uncertainty about risk posed by a particular hazard before regulating that hazard, both Wein- berg and Tschinkel suggest that we cannot establish a dictum that we should always do so. Some risks are not now, and may never be, amenable to reliable estimation by scientific inquiry. For other risks, certainty in estima- tion sufficient to warrant a scientifically ironclad basis for regulation may come only at great cost. Society may, therefore, in some cases wish to impose regulator burdens that are not justified by definitive scientific evi- dence, or may permit potentially hazardous technologies to exist without rP.sn~ln~ion if the benefits of doing so outweigh the consequences of the ~ `~45, ~.,.~_.~4 I. ._ ~ _^A_~^ TV ~ ~ _~ each= _ _ _ potential hazard. Whipple suggests that society must also now consider the allocation of regulatory resources among technological hazards. He explains that our current focus on regulating one hazard at a time prevents us from setting priorities among hazards and maximizing benefits to human health and the environment. Tschinkel describes how the Florida Department of Environ- mental Regulation allocates regulatory resources and sets priorities for haz- ards. Finally, Kasperson and Kunreuther suggest that society must consider how best to allocate resources between preventing hazards and providing
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4 ROBERT M. WHITE compensation to the victims of hazards. These authors advocate alternative approaches: Kunreuther argues that compensation can be substituted for risk reduction, and he provides a framework in which fair compensation for the siting of potentially hazardous technological facilities can be achieved. Kasperson, however, argues that compensation does not restore the potential victims of a hazard to the condition that existed before they were placed at possible risk. He concludes that fairness requires that a hazard first be reduced to the lowest practicable level before one attempts to compensate potential victims for the remaining hazard. A final issue that arises in many of the papers in this volume is the question of what factors lead to successful and unsuccessful experiences in hazard management. Weinberg and Whipple suggest that unsuccessful hazard man- agers fail to recognize when the scientific basis for estimating the risk of a potential hazard is inadequate. Consequently, these managers fail to elect regulatory options that do not depend on specific estimates of health or environmental consequences as justification for their actions. gingham and Kasperson suggest that unsuccessful hazard managers fail to consider the distribution of risks and benefits that are associated with alter- native approaches to the hazard. These managers generally also fail to designate equitable risk distribution as one of several criteria used in select- ing among alternative approaches. Huber, Hoffman, and Klacsmann suggest that unsuccessful hazard man- agers fail to compensate victims or potential victims of technological haz- ards in a way that is fair to responsible parties as well as to victims. Huber describes a shift in the focus of U.S. tort law from "private" to "public" risks. He attributes this shift to increasing judicial reliance on uncertain data in assigning causation for particular outcomes to specific hazards. Huber argues that judicial compensation is frequently inefficient and inequitable for hazard victims and responsible parties because of this shift in tort law, and he suggests that compensation would be more equitable if such decisions were made by an administrative agency. Finally, Kasperson and Klacsmann suggest that unsuccessful hazard man- agers fail to develop a participatory framework for managing technological hazards so that information about perceived risk can be effectively shared among regulators, scientists and engineers, industry representatives, and the public. The Symposium on Hazards: Technology and Fairness, from which this volume is derived, provided an opportunity for members of the academic, regulatory, and industrial communities involved in various aspects of man- aging technological hazards to discuss subjects of common interest. From these discussions came suggestions for activities that would define and
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lNTRODUCTlON s resolve emerging issues in hazard management. Suggestions made by the authors in this volume are presented below. Potentially useful toxicity information on many of the chemicals that are screened each year by corporations could be made more generally available to regulatory agencies. Mechanisms for doing this in a way that also pre- serves the proprietary nature of the information should be explored. The principle of de minimis may have broad applicability in environmen- tal standard setting and warrants further discussion. This principle states that for naturally occurring insults to the human environment, regulators need concern themselves with exposures due to human activity only when they exceed the natural, background exposure. Discussion of the scientific basis of de minimis, however, must also address the concern that additional man- made exposures, even when smaller than background levels, may produce a total exposure level that exceeds some threshold of resistance. Thus, new or more severe health and environmental effects may result. Reliable and credible scientific and technological institutions could assist both short- and long-term hazard management efforts by immediate and high-quality reporting of events involving technological hazards, such as the Three Mile Island accident and the Bhopal tragedy. Safer design of potentially hazardous facilities and processes would reduce risks to health and the environment and may be more cost-effective and more equitable than other regulatory controls. Such systems have been proposed for nuclear reactors and for chemical-processing plants. Collective scrutiny of the role of inherently safer technologies in hazard management would be useful. Each session of the symposium raised a number of questions that need to be explored further. With regard to the adequacy of technical knowledge upon which decisions about hazard management are made, questions include the following: · How can production and dissemination of hazard information within and between industries be improved? · What hazards issues might be raised by newly emerging industries? Questions related to fairness include: · What issues of equity must be addressed as choices in hazard manage- ment made by this generation impose burdens on, and restrict choices of, future generations? · How should victims of technological hazards be compensated? · How should.scientific, economic, political, and ethical issues be inte- grated into a final risk-management decision?
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6 ROBERT M. [WHITE Finally, questions concerned with practical aspects of managing techno- logical hazards include: · What are the actual and potential roles of the insurance industry in hazard management? · What are successful approaches to hazard management in various industries and which approaches might be more broadly applied? The Symposium on Hazards: Technology and Fairness was effective in identifying emerging issues in the management of technological hazards, and in suggesting future activities that will help define and resolve these issues. The importance of these issues to the management of technological hazards means that the question of hazards must remain high on the agenda ofthe government, private sector, and academia for years to come. REFERENCE Ruckleshaus, W. D. 1985. Risk, science, and democracy. Issues in Science and Technology 1(3): 19-38.
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