Economic aspects of risk assessment in chemical safety
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This paper considers how the economic aspects of risk assessment in chemical safety can be strengthened. Its main focus is on how economic appraisal techniques, such as cost-benefit and cost-effectiveness analysis, can be adapted to the requirements of the risk-assessment process. Following a discussion of the main methodological issues raised by the use of economic appraisal, illustrated by examples from the health and safety field, a number of practical issues are discussed. These include the consideration of the distribution of costs, effects and benefits, taking account of uncertainty, risk probabilities and public perception, making the appraisal techniques useful to the early stages of the risk-assessment process and structuring the appraisal to permit continuous feedback to the participants in the risk-assessment process. It is concluded that while the way of thinking embodied in economic appraisal is highly relevant to the consideration of choices in chemical safety, the application of these principles in formal analysis of risk reduction procedures presents a more mixed picture. The main suggestions for improvement in the analyses performed are the undertaking of sensitivity analyses of study results to changes in the key assumptions, the presentation of the distribution of costs and benefits by viewpoint, the comparison of health and safety measures in terms of their incremental cost per life-year (or quality-adjusted life-year) gained and the more frequent retrospective review and revision of the economic analyses that are undertaken.