Risk assessment of chemicals
Everything is made of chemicals whether it is the water we drink, the air we breathe, the food we eat, the ground we walk on, the houses we live in or the things we have inside our houses or workplaces. A range of chemicals are used to manufacture things we use every day like food, clothes, computers, kitchen appliances, cars, houses, roads, trains, planes, hair dyes, beauty products, toothpaste, shampoo and flea rinse for our pets. Some chemicals are needed to keep us alive or to let plants or other animals live.
Risk assessment of chemicals is the process of determining whether the concentration of a chemical poses an unacceptable (or adverse) effect (or impacts) to human health or the environment. The risk assessment process incorporates the following key stages.
If the concentration to which people or the environment may be exposed is at or lower than the acceptable or safe concentration, the risk is concluded to be acceptable. There is no further investigation or management needed, the chemical is safe to remain where it is or be used in the way that it is being used.
If the concentration in the environment is higher than the acceptable or safe concentration, risks are concluded to be potentially unacceptable. In this case further investigation, remediation and/or risk management measures are recommended to control exposures to the chemical/s (“risk characterisation”), and in consideration of the overall project objectives (e.g. cost, timeline etc.).
Risks to human health or the environment can only be determined by evaluating both exposure and hazard.