A Risk Assessment Approach for Policy Evaluation: New Jersey Case Studies

Mary A. Fox, Mary C. Sheehan, Thomas A. Burke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


ABSTRACT: Monitoring environmental policy progress often focuses on contaminant concentrations while policy goals address health. To bridge this gap, we developed policy evaluation case studies applying risk assessment methods to explore population health risks of chemical exposures before and after policy implementation. Beginning in the 1970s the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection provided some of the United States' first data on contaminants including trichloroethylene in drinking water and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in fish. These data provide a unique opportunity to evaluate environmental policies. The 1979 PCB manufacturing ban succeeded in reducing exposure and risk, but the persistence of these compounds in local fish requires continued state and local consumption advisories. The positive impact of drinking water standards for trichloroethylene was reflected in declining detection in public water supplies from the late 1970s to 2005, although maximum concentrations in a small percentage of supplies remain above standards. Our case studies show success and progress, and the need for multiple policies in combination when conditions warrant. Tracking specific policies and contaminants using risk assessment methods can be a valuable tool for policy evaluation and can foster population-based environmental health research. Pollution prevention policies are warranted for chemicals that persist in the environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2258-2272
Number of pages15
JournalHuman and Ecological Risk Assessment
Issue number8
StatePublished - Nov 17 2015


  • PCBs
  • environmental policy
  • mercury
  • risk assessment
  • trichloroethylene

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecological Modeling
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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