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Risk Assessment

In everyday life you assess a risk in a lot of situations, e.g. you assess (unconsciously?) the risk of being run down before you cross the street, the risk that it will rain before you leave home on your bike or the risk in connection with the investments that you make. Almost all decisions in society and in our lives are based on a risk assessment which is then weighed against the benefit which is a result of this assessment. Therefore, risk assessment is extremely central in any context, and not least in relation to environmental decisions.
In environmental research, risk assessment is an assessment of the risks associated with an approval or regulation of a specific activity, which can result in the exposure of a chemical substance or a microorganism to the environment or people. The researchers use a structured approach that makes the assessment of risks as objective as possible. This process consists of five steps:

  1. an identification of potential hazards
  2. a characterization of the identified hazards and a characterization of the exposure
  3. an assessment of the risks. This primarily consists of quantifying the probability that the exposure triggers unacceptable risks. This quantification may then be quantitative and will be expressed as a value and / or semi-quantitative and be expressed in words.
  4. an assessment of the options for handling the potential risks.
  5. an overall risk assessment, risk communication and unifying conclusions.

Risk assessments are used in many contexts. At the Department of Environmental Science, we use risk assessment in connection with environmental and health assessments. We do this to ensure that:

  • our reviews are objective and transparent
  • the risk assessment can be diverted to existing policies and objectives, including risk tolerance that is set in each area
  • the risk assessment can be included in the environmental-economic and sociological analysis with a view to optimal decision-making.

The risk is also communicated in public and then handled by the responsible authorities, and is continuously reviewed in relation to new knowledge or in the willingness to take risks. These risk assessments are carried out for a number of public authorities and private companies in the country and abroad.
Staff from the Department of Environmental Science is involved in environmental and health risk assessment of a variety of chemical compounds in connection with a number of projects, as well as various microorganisms.