A Cost-Risk-Benefit Analysis of Toxic Substances

Dennis P. Tihansky
Harold V. Kibby

DOI: 10.2190/55HH-AP5Y-07RE-R94J


Hundreds of new toxic substances are produced each year to satisfy consumer demand, but many of them also enter the environment as risks to the exposed population and to ecosystems. The most logical criterion for their control is a net comparison of all product gains and risk losses from using these substances, with the objective of maximizing the overall welfare of society. The operational framework presented here attempts to synthesize cost-benefit and risk information into a decision-making setting for the purpose of identifying the optimal control level. Both quantitative and qualitative value systems are merged into a single framework, and sequential stages of the analysis are outlined in detail. Several decision-making approaches are recommended, the appropriate choice depending upon the extent of risk-benefit data available as well as the preference for monetary versus non-monetary values. Uncertainty in the data base complicates the assessment since its inclusion requires the application of special statistical measures of confidence.

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