Report of the 2008 Annual Technical Meeting on cost benefit of chemical controls
Entitled "Counting the Costs and Benefits of Chemical Controls: Role of Environmental Risk Assessment in Socio-Economic Analysis, " this June's Annual Technical Meeting marked ECETOC's first step in exploring the embyonic discipline of using the scientific concepts of risk in the calculation of the cost and benefit.
Workshop Report No. 13 Counting the Costs and Benefits of Chemical Controls: Role of Environmental Risk Assessment in Socio-Economic Analysis, 4 June 2008, Brussels
The Annual Technical Meeting of 2006 was organised as a “Futures Workshop' to explore the directions of ECETOC activity for the coming years. Over the ensuing 12 months a comprehensive Science Strategy has been developed composed of 13 “Strategic Science Areas'. One of these areas, and the most novel one for ECETOC, is Science in Society. This area is intended to recognise that the communication of risk in environmental and health policy needs improving. The concept of risk assessment is poorly understood by the public and consequently treated with suspicion. In particular, many members of the public consider that zero risk is the ideal target for environment policy.
The motivation behind Science in Society is a better acceptance of the scientific basis of risk assessment. In order for progress to be made in this direction it is important for the public, in the broadest sense of the term, to be convinced that it is the better approach compared to a zero risk policy. Pre-requisites to this are the recognition that all products in commerce have a value to some part of society and that the restriction of these products will result in a cost to be absorbed somewhere in the value chain.
As ECETOC has always been associated with risk assessment based on best available scientific information, it seems obvious that we need also to be involved in the promotion of its acceptance. Recent European legislation has explicitly recognised that restriction of chemical substances in commerce has a cost and that the benefit of the restriction must exceed this cost. What is not clear so far is how to use scientific concepts of risk in the calculation of the cost and benefit. This interface between economists and actuarial scientists on the one hand and natural scientists and risk assessors on the other requires an understanding of the founding concepts of each other's disciplines. The Annual Technical Meeting reported herein was held as the first step for ECETOC to explore this interface and the future contribution that ECETOC might make to the development of this embryonic discipline.