Chemical and radiation environmental risk management: Differences, commonalities, and challenges

Nga L. Tran, Paul A. Locke, Thomas A. Burke

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Driven by differing statutory mandates and programmatic separation of regulatory responsibilities between federal, state, and tribal agencies, distinct chemical and radiation risk management strategies have evolved. In the field this separation poses real challenges since many of the major environmental risk management decisions we face today require the evaluation of both types of risks. Over the last decade, federal, state, and tribal agencies have continued to discuss their different approaches and explore areas where their activities could be harmonized. The current framework for managing public exposures to chemical carcinogens has been referred to as a 'bottom up approach.' Risk between 10-4 and 10-6 is established as an upper bound goal. In contrast, a 'top down' approach that sets an upper bound dose limit and couples with site specific As Low As Reasonably Achievable Principle (ALARA), is in place to manage individual exposure to radiation. While radiation risk are typically managed on a cumulative basis, exposure to chemicals is generally managed on a chemical-by-chemical, medium-by-medium basis. There are also differences in the nature and size of sites where chemical and radiation contamination is found. Such differences result in divergent management concerns. In spite of these differences, there are several common and practical concerns among radiation and chemical risk managers. They include 1) the issue of cost for site redevelopment and long- term stewardship, 2) public acceptance and involvement, and 3) the need for flexible risk management framework to address the first two issues. This article attempts to synthesize key differences, opportunities for harmonization, and challenges ahead.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)163-172
Number of pages10
JournalRisk Analysis
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2000


  • Institutional controls
  • Performance based risk standards
  • Risk harmonization
  • Risk management
  • Stakeholder involvement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Physiology (medical)


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