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This book guides an approach to Environmental Risk Assessment (ERA) with the
aim to assist readers, especially students, in knowing the responsibilities to be adapted
concerning the environmental problems that we face in this era. Environmental Risk
Assessment (ERA) is not just a document to be submitted to evaluate the risk and hazard
present in the surrounding area and it should not be taken lightly because the difference it
brings can save lives.
It also connects to the importance of the ecosystem as a whole that relates the
biodiversity is in fact dependent in the survival of each species. Thus, this becomes a
subtopic that focuses on the ecosystems definition and characterization.

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What is Risk Assessment?

Risk Assessment is a process in which any known hazard is analyzed and
identified before they occur. The analysis that is to be brought about may be inferred
from past experiences that had been learned from closely similar situations or a
hypothesis produced by educated integration of data set upon the said condition.
Knowing the harm imposed, this may enable formulating multiple solutions in order to
adhere to the problems, eliminate the possible danger, or control the involved risk. Even
though risk assessment may identify the possible outcomes, it does not specifically render
an absolute statement on what will
Risk assessment covers a broad scope that may involve the society, workplace,
and even our own neighborhood, this tells us that it may insert an assessment in any form
that would bring danger to ones life no matter what the place would suggest. And to limit
this scope, we may only consider pacing through the topics in-lined with the environment
and that is environmental risk assessment.
In order to understand what is meant by environmental risk assessment it is
important to be familiar with the concepts of hazard and risk. These terms have different
meanings and are not interchangeable. The following definitions are used here. Hazard is
the inherent potential for something to cause harm. Hazards can include substances,
machines, energy forms, or the way work is carried out. On the other hand, risk is a
combination of the likelihood or probability that the hazard will cause actual harm and
the severity of the consequences. .

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In general, the term environmental covers the physical surroundings that are
common to everybody including air, water, land, plants and wildlife. The definition used
in the Environmental Protection Act 1990 is that the environment '... consists of all, or
any, of the following media, namely the air, water and land'. Thus environmental risk
assessment covers the risk to all ecosystems, including humans, exposed via, or impacted
via, these media. The term environmental risk assessment does not normally cover the
risks to individuals or the general public at large from consumer products or from
exposure in the work place, where other specific legislation applies.
In conclusion, an environmental risk assessment (ERA) is a process that evaluates
the likelihood or probability that adverse effects may occur to environmental values, as a
result of human activities. By this, it may also be used as a support tool for policy
evaluation, land use planning, and resource management decision making. It is
systematic, and can be applied in a variety of situations, ranging from those with minimal
available data and resources, to those with detailed inventories and complex systems
modeling. It is a process of predicting whether there may be a risk of adverse effects on
the environment caused by a chemical substance. Environmental exposure concentrations
of a chemical are predicted and compared to predicted no-effect concentrations for
different environmental compartments.

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Purpose of Environmental Risk Assessment

There are a wide range of uses of environmental risk assessment and, although the
specific methodology and the responsibility for carrying out the assessment may vary, the
core principles and the key stages of the process are fundamentally the same in each case.
ERA can be used in a number of ways such as:

Prioritization of Risks - When an organization is faced with a number of potential

environmental risks, ERA can be used to establish their relative importance, and

thus provides a basis for prioritizing which risks should be dealt with first.
Site-specific Risk Evaluation - ERA can be used to determine the risk associated
with locating facilities in specific locations or to determine the risks that affect a

particular site (e.g., environmental site assessment).

Comparative Risk Assessment - ERA is used to compare the relative risks of more
than one course of action (e.g., what are the risks posed by untreated water versus

the risks posed by chemicals used to treat water).

Quantification of Risks - ERA may be taken to a level where the risks are
quantified in order to establish controls on the risks (e.g., maximum acceptable
concentrations for chemicals in ambient or drinking waters).

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There is a wide range of legislation that encompasses the principles of environmental

risk assessment in relation to chemicals. The European Environment Agency (1998)
publication lists some of these but the area is rapidly changing and it is impractical to
provide a complete list here. Specific guidance is often available for each piece of
legislation. The principles of environmental risk assessment are also applied in a number
of other areas, for example flood protection, noise pollution and planning. Some
examples of the use of environmental risk assessment are given below.

Assessing the impacts of chemicals used at existing sites (for example for the








Environmental Permitting Regulations (2010) and other similar legislation).

Assessing the impacts of products generated by individual companies/sites due to

their use or transport etc.

Assessing potential impacts of new developments, new sites or new processes as
part of the planning procedure (for example in relation to the Town and Country
Planning Regulations (2011)). This is often known as Environmental Impact

Assessment or EIA. 5 Registered charity number 207890

Assessing the impacts of products, processes or services over their life cycle (life

cycle assessment or LCA).

Consideration of risks to the environment in a companys environmental
management system (EMS) or eco-management and audit scheme (EMAS). Such
schemes are based on continual environmental improvement in which risk

assessment plays an important part

Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals Regulation.
Environmental risk assessment is a key component of determining the safe use of
chemicals under this legislation.

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Conceptual Framework of ERA

Environmental risk assessment is based on comparison of environmental
indicators, as they change over time. Current and predicted future ranges of conditions

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are compared against the historic range of variation for those conditions (i.e., natural).
The base case, or the historic range of conditions, is determined by monitoring of
undisturbed areas and analysis of natural disturbance regimes and historic records. The
difference in risk between current and historic conditions is the result of cumulative
impacts of past development and disturbance. Future conditions are based on the trends
and long-term implications of continuing present management, or the predicted outcomes
of potential alternative management options.
Assessment of environmental conditions and indicators is summarized in terms of
a risk index, and generally reported by means of a series of risk classes. As a part of the
risk analysis, it may be useful to define specific thresholds, or a low risk benchmark
based on best management practices.

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Conceptual Framework

Strengths of an ERA
ERA is of particular value because it brings to the forefront the environmental
consequences of decisions. In doing so, ERA shifts the focus from justifying the merits of
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a particular action or strategy, and instead, illuminates likely outcomes and their
desirability. By making explicit the factors that pose risks to the environment, ERA
requires acknowledgement of risks to the environment before and after decisions are
made. Awareness of risk encourages the distribution of accountability and a collective
sharing of responsibility for managing that risk, and will hopefully lead to decisions that
reduce risk.
ERA is a flexible tool that can be applied:

at a variety of scales and levels of detail appropriate to those scales (e.g.,

provincial to site-specific);
for a variety of environmental issues (e.g., from wildlife to water);
at various levels of funding (i.e., from quick overviews to in-depth comprehensive

studies); and,
for short, medium or long-term time scales.

ERA has the following strengths:

a concept (risk or threat) widely understood by the public, clearly illustrating the

future consequences of choices;

provision of explicit criteria for consideration in making decisions, encouraging

transparency and accountability;

creation of a framework for debate that clearly separates risk assessment from
decision making, and can provide a vehicle for improving dialogue over highly
contentious environmental management or development issues;
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providing reassurance to stakeholders that potential changes to the environment

due to human activities are being considered;

building understanding of the relationships between the environment and human

identification of the consequences of alternative management actions;
acknowledgement of assumptions and information used; and,
scientific validity and defensibility.

Types of Risk Assessment

Risk Assessment may be classified into three types:
1. Baseline risk assessments (HIRA)
2. Issue based risk assessments (HIRA)
3. Continues risk assessments (HIRA)

Baseline Risk Assessment

The purpose of conducting a baseline HIRA is to establish a risk profile or a set of

risk profiles. It is used to prioritize action programs for issue-based risk assessments.

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It should be performed to obtain a benchmark of the types and size of potential

hazards, which could have a significant impact on the whole organization. They need
to identify the major and significant risks, then prioritize these risks and evaluate the
effectiveness of current systems for risk control.

It must be emphasized that the baseline is an initial risk assessment that focuses
on a broad overview in order to determine the risk profile to be used in subsequent
risk assessments. A baseline risk assessment focuses on the identification of risk that
applies to the whole organization or project.

This type of assessment could be performed on a site, region or even on a national

basis concerning any facet of the organization operations or procedures. This
assessment needs to be comprehensive and may even lead to other and more in-depth

Issue based risk assessments

The purpose of conducting an issue-based HIRA is to conduct a detailed

assessment study that will result in the development of action plans for the treatment
of significant risk.

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This type of assessment is normally focused on at operational activities, processes

and systems based business functions. It focuses the identification of the risks within
a certain task, process or activity and is usually associated with the management of
change. Risk profiles from the baseline HIRA form the basis for establishing issuebased HIRA programs.

Continues risk assessments

The continuous risk assessment is an informal risk assessment performed on an

on-going basis in the workplace. It's usually performed by a supervisor who'll

observe employees performing their tasks as part of his daily responsibility. From
this observation the risk related to the specific performance of the task is assessed
and the supervisor will stop the employee from continuing the task should it
present too high a risk.

Four Steps to a Risk Assessment Document

Though risk assessment projects use different methods and techniques, all go
through four basic steps to characterize risk.
Step 1 Hazard Identification
The initial investigation of a site usually includes collecting samples and
identifying potential sources of suspected risks. The samples are run to identify

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levels of a range of chemicals, not just suspected risk chemicals. If one or more
chemicals warrant further study, the agency begins a formal risk study.
Step 2 Exposure Assessment
Exposure assessments are performed for the hazardous chemicals
identified. Regardless of what prompted the study, IDEM begins scientifically
measuring the impacted environment to determine potential human exposure. This
step may require years of sampling or just a simple surface wipe. The data is
processed and quality-assured. Additional considerations may need to be included
to estimate chemical exposure, such as meteorological data.
Step 3 Dose Response Assessment
At the same time as the Exposure Assessment is being conducted, the
appropriate dose-response factor is chosen for chemicals being studied. Scientists
have conducted studies to determine a person's risk for each exposure path. When
choosing a dose-response factor to apply to a risk assessment study, the scientists
conducting the study will use the dose-response factor that best fits the study's
Step 4 Risk Characterization
Once the exposure assessment has determined an exposure level and an
appropriate dose-response factor, the increased risk in the study area can be
calculated. However, the risk calculation will not represent the actual chance of
developing symptoms/diseases. Health-protective assumptions made during the
risk calculation will protect overall health, but end up raising the estimated
number of calculated symptoms/diseases.

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Conducting an Environmental Risk Assessment

ERA involves six basic steps:

STEP 1 - Establish the Context for ERA
i. Identify decision processes that would benefit from ERA
information (e.g., LRMPs, LU Plans, TSR or policy review).
ii. Prepare a preliminary list of what may be at risk in the
iii. Confirm the scope and scale of the items for risk assessment.
iv. Identify data inputs, assessment methods and presentation
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v. Identify resources required for ERA (expertise, personnel, time,

funding, scheduling).
STEP 2 - Identify and Characterize Key Environmental Pressures
i. Determine pressures causing changes in ecosystem processes,
functions or attributes that may directly or indirectly impact
the environment:
- macro-scale (e.g., climate change, road density increases); and,
- direct and indirect (e.g., point source pollution, fire suppression).

ii. Review past and potential future management regimes that

influence these pressures, and characterize the cause-and-effect
relationships (to the extent possible)
STEP 3 - Specify Environmental Values and Indicators for the ERA
i. Select environmental values from the preliminary list in Step 1
for risk assessment, based on consideration of:
- significance of ecosystem role (e.g., keystone species, critical
- economic or social value; - likelihood for increasing risk and
strength of relationship to pressures identified;

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- feasibility (e.g., availability of data, understanding of habitat

requirements); and,
- scale appropriate to the level of reporting or decisionmaking.
ii. Determine indicators that best link pressures to changes in risk
based on:
- strength of relationship between the indicator and risk to the
environmental value;
- sensitivity to change from human-caused management-related
pressures; and,
- availability of data.
iii. Provide a rationale for the selected assessment items and

STEP 4 - Characterize Environmental Trends, Indicator Relationships and
Establish Risk Classes
i. Describe the range of conditions for the selected environmental values,
- the base case (i.e., the historic range of variability or natural

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- current condition, with a summary of cumulative impacts of past

- predicted future status (mid/long term trends with current management);
- low risk benchmark (i.e., conditions for sustained maintenance of the
value); and,
- predicted thresholds (e.g., minimum viable population, drinking water
ii. Choose methods for risk analysis based on ability to model relationships,
track changes to indicators and describe risks to the environmental values
being assessed.
iii. Define risk classes (i.e., the types of risks and their specific ranges).
STEP 5 - Evaluate Changes to Indicators and Risks

Assess the range of proposed development options. For each option

- the intensity, scale and duration of the various management activities;
- predicted future pressures resulting from those activities; and,
- consequent changes in selected indicators linked to the values being


Assess the degree of risk (by class), at various future times, for the
range of management options (including cumulative impacts)

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STEP 6 - Report Results and Develop Risk Reduction Strategies


Interpret the assessment results; identify low risk options and risk


Identify risk reduction strategies:
- identify actions to decrease pressures linked to high risks, and actions
to support or enhance activities linked to low risks; and,
- propose management strategies, policy options or development
scenarios that could reduce or minimize risk.


Report the assessment results; including assumptions, limitations,

uncertainty, and a full explanation of the consequences of risk levels.

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Planning the Risk Assessment and Summary of Steps in the ERA Approach
Prior to the actual conduct of the risk assessment, a substantial amount of time
and effort should be given to planning the risk assessment process. Identifying a suitable
lead individual, team or agency that is qualified to oversee the process is critical to its
success. In addition to having proven experience in conducting risk assessments and
knowledge in a range of assessment methodologies, familiarity with the locality,
knowledge of the local language, and good communication, consensus-building,
facilitation and team work skills are added advantages.
With a lead consultant or agency, a multidisciplinary team is normally formed that
includes representatives from various organizations. As risk assessments are multidisciplinary undertakings, multi-disciplinary teams are often more effective.
Team members that can add value to the risk assessment process include:

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Representatives from local government Representatives from sectored departments to

provide insights into their vulnerabilities and capacities to various hazards
Representatives from NGOs who have worked in the locality for an extensive period of
time and have in-depth knowledge of communities way of life, including the National
Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
In some cases, risk assessment is regarded as the first phase of the planning process and
the same team carries out both the processes of risk assessment and planning, and
contributes to monitoring and evaluation during the implementation phase. This approach
has the advantage of continuity where the same team is able to gradually build its
knowledge and relationship with stakeholders.
With this approach, it is more important to select team members that have the
competencies to lead all the components.
There are five essential steps in the risk assessment process:
1. Hazard Identification includes identifying the hazards from which an area is at
2. Hazard Assessment includes estimating the likelihood of experiencing the
hazards at a location or in a region, and studying the characteristics, frequency
and potential severity of the hazards.
3. Vulnerability and Capacity Assessment includes determining who or what are
exposed to which hazards, where and why; and the resources, assets, skills,
knowledge and social relations available to reduce the impact of those hazards,
and cope with them.

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4. Risk Estimation includes combining all of the above steps to analyze the
identified risks and the extent of their impact.
5. Risk Evaluation includes examining how important the risks are to different
groups of people, and prioritizing them for action.

Each step requires different types of data and there are a range of approaches and
techniques that can be used to obtain and process the data. They range from quantitative
analysis built around scenario modeling and mapping, to qualitative, non-technical
approaches. The choice depends upon the kinds of output that need to be generated.
There are complex risk assessment processes by technical experts who conduct
statistical analyses of a wide range of past hazard events and geological, climatic and
meteorological data to determine probable losses on an annual basis. Sometimes,
additional scientific investigation is needed to substantiate anecdotal or incomplete data.
Risk assessments can be conducted by community members themselves, using
methodologies such as direct observation and informal interviews. There are also
assessments that use a combination of scientific and lay person knowledge.
The scientific studies are normally carried out for larger areas, and can be very
expensive and time-consuming. If a risk assessment has to be done in a community (that
has been identified as a high risk area), one of the cost-effective ways to do it is using a

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community-based disaster risk management (CBDRM) approach. This guidebook has

case studies to provide examples.

Limitations of Environmental Risk Assessment

ERA will clarify risk to the environment from a decision, but it will not be able to
set an acceptable threshold of risk. Determining acceptable risk is an issue of risk
management. Risk assessment is a basis for judgments about impacts but not for
judgments on the acceptability of impacts. Decision-makers must choose a desired or
acceptable level of risk.
ERA has the following limitations:

risk tolerance is relative individuals and institutions have differing

perceptions, tolerance and acceptance of risk; and,

isolating the risks associated with a decision can be difficult there is a
range of natural variability within ecosystems, differing tolerances to
stress, and varying rates of recovery.

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Important Environmental Values

Humans strive to survive and with this comes the effect of humanitys actions to
affect the environment, hence there are three core values to follow before the execution of
human acts concerning the environment:

the protection of biodiversity, ecological systems, and wilderness;

the minimization of negative impacts on human health; and
the establishment of sustainable patterns of resource use.

These three values may be broadened into ten statements (Paehlke 2000):
1. An appreciation of all life forms and a view that the complexities of the ecological
web of life are politically salient.
2. A sense of humility regarding the human species in relation to other species and to
the global ecosystem.
3. A concern with the quality of human life and health, including an emphasis on the
importance of preventive medicine, diet, and exercise to the maintenance and
enhancement of human health.
4. A global rather than a nationalist or isolationist view.
5. Some preference for political and/or population decentralization.

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6. An extended time horizon-a concern about the long-term future of the world and
its life
7. A sense of urgency regarding the survival of life on Earth, both long term and
short term.
8. A belief that human societies ought to be reestablished on a more sustainable
technical and physical basis. An appreciation that many aspects of our present
way of life are fundamentally transitory.
9. A revulsion toward waste in the face of human need (in more extreme forms, this
may appear as asceticism).
10. A love of simplicity, although this does not include rejection of technology or
"modernity" or season, setting, climate, and natural.

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Users of Environmental Risk Assessment

RA is a major tool for any individual or organization dealing with risks. At a
formal scale, we refer to risk assessors and risk managers as the professional practitioners
of ERA. Current practice of ERA is based on key issues mutually agreed upon between
technical experts and stakeholders. Technical experts in ecology, environmental
chemistry, engineering, health and related disciplines provide the objective assessment of
the issues. Stakeholders input the value-driven aspects, such as policy, economics,
aesthetics and broad-based public interest on critical environmental issues. Stakeholders
participate in defining societal values and the system at risk.
Current ERA practice incorporates a dialogue and consensus-building process
among stakeholders and the technical experts. Risk communication is crucial to effective
risk management. Technical information must reach not only risk managers but also
stakeholders in a comprehensive and comprehensible manner. On the other hand,
stakeholder concerns must be elaborated and incorporated in technical approaches and
management decisions.
Risk communication planning must appreciate that decision-making in ERA is
difficult because there are trade-offs to be made among competing objectives and
perspectives. Uncertainties are also inherent in risk assessments because natural systems
are chaotic and variable.

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Stakeholder involvement in environmental assessment

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Uncertainties in risk management

Application and Scope of an ERA

Risk assessment, in general, forms the basis of the insurance industry. ERA is
amply applied by the chemical and pharmaceutical industry to study risks from
production, consumption and disposal of synthetic chemicals. Thus, most of its concepts,
methodological framework and terminologies are derived from risk assessment of
chemical release to the environment. However, the virtues of ERA are now being applied
to other effects caused by "non-chemical" risks such as physical disturbances and
biological agents.
The use of formal risk assessment process in urban environmental management is
advantageous for the following reasons:

ERA quantifies the comparison and prioritization of risks;

ERA provides an informed, scientific basis for cost-benefit analyses;

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ERA considers uncertainties, thus making the assessment more credible;

ERA distinguishes the scientific process of risk assessment from the value-laden
selection of risk management measures

In its expanded form, ERA may be conducted for any activity or condition that will
likely cause a harmful consequence. Several ERA conceptual and methodological
frameworks arose from the wider practice of ERA, including a proposal for an ERA for
developing countries (Claudio, 1988; Smith et al., 1988)
ERA may take several forms depending on the questions asked or the issues
raised by the risk managers, the stakeholders and the risk assessors (see Table 1). Three
broad applications of ERA are chemical evaluations, site assessments and natural
resource assessments.

Table 1
Questions/Issues for ERA Scoping
Level of Analysis

Macro, systems, national or regional?

System Boundaries

Routine release and/or accidents?

Which population?

Which parts of the flow cycle?

Which geographic boundaries for each?

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Which phases of the project?

Effects for how long in the future?

Which health endpoints?

Which ecosystem risk endpoints?

Which parts of the causal chain?

Interaction with other projects, existing or planned?

Which risk indicators?

Which methods of exposure determination?

Which environmental concentrations will be used?

Which final risk measures?

Which confidence levels?

Risk Expressions

An example of a chemical evaluation is to estimate the risk of release of toxic

chemicals such as dioxim and furans from an incinerator to the atmosphere, agricultural
farms and the local population, or in comparing land filling versus incineration as waste

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management options. ERA can also be used in selecting a disinfection method for
drinking water as against the risk of generating and ingesting chlorinated organic
chemicals. ERA can facilitate site assessments, such as site selection for a petrochemical
industrial park or a nuclear power plant.
ERA can be used also in natural resource assessment. Two ERA approaches were
used recently to assess a regional marine resource system: the Retrospective Approach
and the Prospective Approach. This case is further described in a later section of this
paper. The Retrospective Approach provides the factual basis for the Prospective
Approach and in turn the Prospective Approach explains findings established by the
Retrospective Approach. The Retrospective Approach is also compared to Forensic
Ecology and not considered by some as true risk assessment.
As may be inferred from these examples, geographic and thematic scopes of ERA
can range from micro-ERA (wherein a single pollutant is the agent and the workers as
well as local residents are receptors) and to a macro-ERA involving many risk sources
spanning national and international scales which can be called cumulative risk

Stages of Carrying out an ERA

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Before carrying out an environmental risk assessment it is important to clearly set

out the problem being addressed and the boundaries within which any decisions on
environmental risk are to be made. This is sometimes known as problem formulation and
can typically define the risk of what, to whom (or which part of the environment), where
(location) and when (in time). This can also assist in selecting the level and types of
assessment methodology to be used in the environmental risk assessment itself.
Environmental risk assessment can be thought of as containing the following key stages.
1. Hazard identification. This would typically include identification of the
property or situation that could lead to harm.
2. Identification of the consequences if the hazard was to occur.
3. Estimation of the magnitude of the consequences. This can include
consideration of the spatial and temporal scale of the consequences and the time
to onset of the consequences. When considering chemicals, this step can
sometimes be termed release assessment.
4. Estimation of the probability of the consequences. There are three components
to this, the presence of the hazard, the probability of the receptors being exposed
to the hazard and the probability of harm resulting from exposure to the hazard.
This step can sometimes be called exposure assessment or consequence
5. Evaluating the significance of a risk (often termed risk characterization or risk
estimation) is the product of the likelihood of the hazard being realized and the

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severity of the consequences. This step may also consider the uncertainty
associated with both the hazard and the risk.
A concept frequently used in environmental risk assessment is that of the source
pathway receptor. In this conceptual model the pathway between a hazard source (for
example a source of contamination) and a receptor (for example a particular ecosystem)
is investigated. The pathway is the linkage by which the receptor could come into contact
with the source (a number of pathways often need to be considered). If no pathway exists
then no risk exists. If a pathway exists linking the source to the receptor, then the
consequences of this are determined. This approach is used in the assessment of
contaminated land, but can be, and is, applied to many other areas.

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At the end of the risk assessment process, existing controls should be recorded
and further measures may need to be considered to reduce or eliminate the risks
identified. Detailed consideration of risk management is beyond the scope of this paper
but, in general terms, risk management can be achieved by reducing or modifying the
source, by managing or breaking the pathway and/or modifying the receptor.
The final stage is the evaluation of the significance of the risk which involves
placing it in a context, for example with respect to an environmental standard or other
criterion defined in legislation, statutory or good practice guidance.
The amount of effort and detail required in assessing each risk can vary widely,
but is generally proportionate to its priority and complexity. Thus environmental risk
assessments can be carried out on several levels. An example of a relatively common,
simplistic, approach based on a risk ranking matrix is shown below. The meanings of
high, medium, low and very low can be determined in various ways, for example using a
descriptive or numerical scale, or often based on expert judgment. Once risks have been
identified, the matrix allows the relative importance to be easily determined, and the risk
can then be prioritized and an appropriate risk management strategy or plan can be
implemented. Other relatively simple approaches include the use of assessment sheets

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whereby the materials and activities are listed, and any potential impacts for the
environment are described.

In more complex cases, it may be appropriate to use quantitative risk assessment

approaches. Such approaches can define the pathway and consequences using
modeling/estimation techniques that allow the level of exposure of a receptor, and the
consequences to the receptor, to be better determined. In some cases probabilistic models
can be used to estimate the actual probability of risk occurring.

The following stages below further explain in specific details.

Stage I: Identify the hazard

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These guidelines define a hazard as a situation or biological, chemical or physical agent

that may, under specific conditions, lead to harm or cause adverse affects. This could
include the bioaccumulation of endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) in fish, a tidal
surge along a stretch of the coast, the introduction of an invasive species, a dry summer
leading to low river flows, or the planting of a genetically modified crop. Where a risk
assessment is to be applied at the policy level, the hazard may be as broad as the adverse
impacts of road transport on the environment or of induced climate change from the
contribution of fossil fuel-derived carbon dioxide emissions.
The identification of the hazard will have an important bearing on the scope of the
overall assessment. One common pitfall is to overlook secondary hazards that may also
arise. For example, during a river flood, sediments may be deposited on agricultural land
in the flood plain. If these sediments were to be contaminated, they may pose an
additional hazard. Secondary hazards need consideration during problem formulation
when the scope of the risk assessment is being agreed.
Stage II: Assess the consequences
The potential consequences that may arise from any given hazard are inherent to
that hazard. The full range of potential consequences must be considered at this stage. For
example, while the potential consequences of a discharge of high levels of nitrates and
phosphates from a point source to surface waters may be self-evident, a flood may have
additional, non-obvious consequences, such as pollution arising from an over-stretched
sewerage system, or loss of habitats due to river scouring.

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The consequences of a particular hazard may be actual or potential harm to

human health, property, the natural environment or dependent valued services (the issue
of probability of occurrence is covered below). The magnitude of such consequences can
be determined in a number of ways, depending on whether they are being considered as
part of a risk screening process or as part of a more detailed quantification of risk. At all
stages of risk assessment the spatial and temporal scale of the consequences and the time
to onset of the consequences need to be considered. In some cases the focus will be on
estimating the social and economic impact of an environmental risk.
Stage III: Assess their probabilities
With the range of potential impacts (which could be qualitatively or quantitatively
described), the likelihood that they will occur may be expressed as a probability or
frequency. It is important to assess probability with some degree of confidence as the
credibility of the risk assessment is undermined if the probability presented appears to be
wholly subjective or, conversely, indefensibly precise. Indeed, using data to define
probabilities for discrete and rare events is more difficult than for those that can be
readily observed. It is therefore best to consider how relevant the data is to the problem.
Generally, risk assessors consider three aspects of the likelihood of consequences being
a) The probability of the initiating event occurring
The probability of the occurrence of an event can be expressed as a fraction
from 0 to 1. Events that are unlikely will have a probability near 0, and events
that are likely to happen have probabilities near 1. Many environmental risks
are manifest because engineered systems fail. Process engineers have
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therefore used fault trees, sometimes supported by quantification of

contributing failure modes, to estimate the probability of a so-called top
event occurring. This might be an accidental release. More broadly, process
risk analysis tools that estimate the probability of an initiating event may be
used for the breakthrough of filters or landfill liners, for example, in the
analysis of barrier failure, where multiple barriers protect the environment
from a hazardous release; and where a sequence of events may occur to result
in exposure (e.g. the progressive deterioration of flood defense assets).
Sophisticated quantitative fault tree software and tools are in wide application
within engineering systems. Case Study Box 6 provides an example of a logic
sequence for an initiating event. The impact of uncertainty can also be
investigated by carrying out further analysis or what if scenarios within
quantitative models.
b) The probability of exposure to the hazard
Risk assessors also have an interest in what happens should a release occur.
Usually, hazardous agents are released to the wider environment and may
travel some distance to receptors. Consider the releases of bioaerosols from
large composting facilities, for example, or the transboundary distributions of
persistent organic pollutants at a global level, or the hydrogeological transport
of contaminants in an aquifer. Here, the assessor must characterize the
temporal and spatial distribution of hazardous agents from the point of release
to the so-called exposure point. A wide variety of environmental dispersion
tools exist to characterize contaminant transport, for example. These are

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sometimes coupled to exposure assessment tools that estimate the likely

dose at the exposure point.
c) The probability of the receptors being affected by the hazard
Should exposure to a hazard occur, the risk analyst is then interested in the
likelihood of harm that may result from the exposure. The likelihood of harm
depends on the susceptibility and vulnerability of a receptor to the hazard, on
the potency of the hazard itself, and on the amount or extent of exposure. For
chemicals and pathogens, this is often simplified in terms of a doseresponse
relationship, which relates exposure to the expected magnitude of harm for
certain receptor types. In flood damage assessment, for example, standard
depthdamage curves can be used to relate the depth of flood waters to the
damage sustained by a building or its contents, again according to the extent
of exposure to the flood waters and property type.
Stage IV: Characterize risk and uncertainty
Risk characterization pulls together the information from the previous three
stages. It is concerned with determining the qualitative and, if possible, quantitative
likelihood of occurrence of the known and potentially adverse effect that an activity or
agent presents to a given receptor under defined exposure conditions, along with
acknowledging the assumptions and uncertainties. Here we are concerned with the
significance of the risk. Risk characterization can be achieved through reference to some
pre-existing measure, such as an environmental quality standard or a flood defense
standard, or by reference to pre-established social, ethical, regulatory or political

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A variety of methods can be used to characterize the risk. A basic approach might
involve comparing contaminant concentrations in lake water with guideline values and
deciding what this means in terms of how likely it will be that adverse consequences will
be realized. Considerations may also include how valid the guideline values are for the
site of concern and whether further investigations were necessary in order to justifiably
characterize the risk.

Overview of an ERA
This guideline will help you understand most of the concept of Environmental
Risk Assessment including its

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Strengths and Limitations
Steps in conducting

ERA has many things to consider and requires certain data that will predict the
likelihood of a hazardous event to occur and evaluating them.

Legal Requirements of an ERA

Risk assessment is useful to society because it offers a rational means to look at
and compare risks due to environmental chemicals as well as biological and physical
hazards. Countries with advanced environmental policies have included ERA in their
legal and administrative framework. The U.S. leads in that effort and is a good example

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to cite. Federal agencies such as the US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA), US
Good and Drug Administration (FDA), US Department of Defense (DOD) and US
Department of Energy (DOE), and state agencies such as the California Environmental
Protection Agency (Cal/EPA), routinely use risk assessment in making decisions for
diverse areas as toxic waste cleanup, pesticide registration and labeling, standards setting
for air pollutants, and the permitting of facilities. US federal laws such as Comprehensive
Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), Resource
Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide
Act (FIFRA), Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 (CAA-90), and Toxic Substances
Control Act (TSCA) contain provisions where risk assessment may be appropriate or
required. Similarly, implementation of California state laws, such as the Toxic Air
Contaminant Identification and Control Act (AB 1807), Safe Drinking Water and Toxic
Enforcement Act of 1986 (Proposition 65), and Birth Defect Prevention Act (SB 950)
require risk assessment activities. Risk assessment can provide some basis for reaching
both chemical-specific and site-specific regulatory decisions.
In countries where environmental policies and administration are not as advanced as
those of the U.S. Federal government and the State of California, ERA is seldom part of
neither the legislative nor executive issuances. One developing country with a relatively
long history of environmental policy making has required risk assessment via
administrative fiat. In the Philippines, a risk assessment is required for environmentally
critical projects and incorporated as part of the legally required environmentally impact
statement submitted by project proponents to government to acquire an Environmental
Compliance Certificate (ECC). During the scoping stage of the formal EIA process, a
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determination is made if an ERA is required. The basic criteria for determining such a
need for a proposed project are the presence of:

Materials or chemicals that are toxic, flammable, reactive/explosive and

hazardous or have deleterious effects to humans, animals, plants and ecosystems;

Structures (e.g. dams, mining pits, tailing ponds), the failure of which could
endanger life, property or environment.

Threshold levels are set for these substances (but not for the structures), above which
an ERA with corresponding prescribed details is required.
For proposed undertakings requiring an ERA, the format of the report shall contain at
least the following information:
1. Information relating to the operator and the establishment
2. The scope of analysis employed in the report
3. Information relating to every hazardous substance or situation present in the
4. The consequences of major accidents, the probability of its occurrence, and an
estimation of the risk
5. The safety management system for the establishment

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6. Linkage with off-site emergency plan

The ERA report will comprise the safety management plan of the Environmental Impact
Statement (EIS) for the proposed project.

An ecosystem consists of an assembly of mutually interacting organisms and their
environment in which materials are interchanged in a largely cyclical manner. An
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ecosystem has physical, chemical, and biological components along with energy sources
and pathways of energy and materials interchange. The environment in which a particular
organism lives is called its habitat. The role of an organism in a habitat is called its niche.
For the study of ecology it is often convenient to divide the environment into four broad
1. Terrestrial environment - The terrestrial environment is based on land and consists of
biomes, such as grasslands, one of several kinds of forests, savannas, or deserts.
2. Freshwater environment - The freshwater environment can be further subdivided
between standing-water habitats (lakes, reservoirs) and running-water habitats (streams,
3. Oceanic marine environment - The oceanic marine environment is characterized by
saltwater and may be divided broadly into the shallow waters of the continental shelf
composing the neritic zone
4. Oceanic region - The deeper waters of the ocean that constitute the oceanic region.

Two major subdivisions of modern ecology are

Ecosystem ecology - which views ecosystems as large units, and

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Population ecology - which attempts to explain ecosystem behavior from the properties
of individual units.
In practice, the two approaches are usually merged. Descriptive ecology describes
the types and nature of organisms and their environment, emphasizing structures of
ecosystems and communities and dispersions and structures of populations. Functional
ecology explains how things work in an ecosystem, including how populations respond to
environmental alteration and how matter and energy move through ecosystems.
Ecosystems are broadly divided into natural and artificial. Natural ecosystems are
those that are existing in nature; they are further classified into terrestrial and aquatic.
Terrestrial includes hot desert, grass land, tropical and temperate rainforest and aquatic
includes ponds, river, streams, lakes, estuaries, oceans, mangroves, swamps and bays etc.
However, these two ecosystems are self regulating, open system with a free exchange of
inputs and outputs with other systems. Artificial ecosystems are simple, human-made,
unstable and subjected to human intervention and manipulation. Usually it is formed by
clearing a part of the forest or grassland e.g. crop field, agricultural land.
An ecosystem has two components the biotic components consisting of living
things, and the abiotic portion, consisting of elements that are not alive. The non living
constituents are said to include the following category, habitat, gases, solar radiation,
temperature, moisture and inorganic and organic nutrients. The living organisms may be
sub divided into producers, consumers and decomposers. Abiotic Components include
basic inorganic and organic components of the environment or habitat of the organism.
The inorganic components of an ecosystem are carbon dioxide, water nitrogen, calcium

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phosphate all of which are involved in matter cycle (biogeochemical cycles). The organic
components of an ecosystem are proteins, carbohydrates, lipids and amino acids, all of
which are synthesized by the biota (flora and fauna) of an ecosystem and are reached to
ecosystem as their wastes, dead remains etc. the climate 'microclimate' temperature, light
soil etc. are abiotic components of the ecosystems.
Ecosystem function is the capacity of natural processes and components to
provide goods and services that satisfy human needs, either directly or indirectly.
Ecosystem functions are subset of ecological processes and ecosystem structures. Each
function is the result of the natural processes of the total ecological sub-system of which
it is a part. Natural processes, in turn, are the result of complex interactions between
biotic (living organisms) and abiotic (chemical and physical) components of ecosystems
through the universal driving forces of matter and energy. There are four primary groups
of ecosystem functions (1) regulatory functions, (2) habitat functions, (3) production
functions and (4) information functions. This grouping concerns all ecosystems, not only
for forests.
General characterization of ecosystem functions are:
(1) Regulatory functions: this group of functions relates to the capacity of natural
and semi-natural ecosystems to regulate essential ecological processes and life
support systems through bio-geochemical cycles and other biospheric processes.
In addition to maintaining the ecosystem (and biosphere health), these regulatory
functions provide many services that have direct and indirect benefits to humans
(i.e., clean air, water and soil, and biological control services).
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(2) Habitat functions: natural ecosystems provide refuge and a reproduction

habitat to wild plants and animals and thereby contribute to the (in situ)
conservation of biological and genetic diversity and the evolutionary process.
(3) Production functions: Photosynthesis and nutrient uptake by autotrophs
converts energy, carbon dioxide, water and nutrients into a wide variety of
carbohydrate structures which are then used by secondary producers to create an
even larger variety of living biomass. This broad diversity in carbohydrate
structures provides many ecosystem goods for human consumption, ranging from
food and raw materials to energy resources and genetic material.
(4) Information functions: Since most of human evolution took place within the
context of an undomesticated habitat, natural ecosystems contribute to the
maintenance of human health by providing opportunities for reflection, spiritual
enrichment, cognitive development, recreation and aesthetic experience.
Components of an ecosystem: Complete ecosystem consists of four basic
components such as producers, consumers, decomposers and abiotic components e.g.
Pond. If anyone of these four components are lacking, then it is grouped under
incomplete ecosystem e.g. Ocean depth or a cave.
Productivity in the Environment: The productivity of an ecosystem is the rate at
which solar energy is fixed by the vegetation of the ecosystem; it is further classified into
primary productivity, secondary productivity and net productivity.

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Primary productivity refers to the rate at which radiant energy is stored by photosynthetic
and chemosynthetic activity of producers; it is further distinguished as gross primary
productivity (GPP) and net primary productivity (NPP). It is expressed in terms of weight
(g/m2/yr) or energy (kcal/m2). Secondary productivity refers to the rates of energy storage
at consumer levels.
An understanding of ecology is essential in the management of modern
industrialized societies in ways that are compatible with environmental preservation and
enhancement. The branch of ecology that deals with predicting the impacts of technology
and development and making recommendations such that these activities will have
minimum adverse impacts, or even positive impacts, on ecosystems may be termed as
Applied Ecology.

How an Ecosystem Works

There is no limit to how large or small an ecosystem can be. An ecosystem can be
as large as an ocean or as small as a puddle. Very large ecosystems are known as biomes.
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An important point to recognize about ecosystems is the interaction between a grouping

of plants and animals and their non-living environment and how the two strive to achieve
a balance.
Ecology relates to the study of ecosystems. Scientists who study the different
components of ecosystems and how they are related to one another are called ecologists.
Ecologists have determined that the populations of many species if left undisturbed by
humans will remain relatively unchanged over time.
The number of living organisms an ecosystem is able to support is directly related
to the amount of renewable and non-renewable resources present in the ecosystem. Under
natural conditions, most populations will stabilize at a level known as the carrying
capacity of the ecosystem. The carrying capacity is the maximum number of organisms
that an ecosystem can support on a continued basis. In most cases, an ecosystem's
carrying capacity is determined by the availability of resources such as space, nutrients,
water and light.
Interactions between species or between members of the same species often
determine who will be successful in obtaining resources and who will survive. Such types
of interactions include competition and predator-prey relationships. Competition occurs
when two individuals (or species) both attempt to utilize a resource (such as food or
space) that is limited relative to the demand for it. Predator-prey relationships occur when
one organism (the predator) kills and eats another living organism (the prey). In predatorprey relationships, one organism is the resource. Once all members of a prey species are
gone the predator will have to look for alternative sources of food for energy.
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Threats to Ecosystem
Anything that attempts to alter the balance of the ecosystem potentially threatens
the health and existence of that ecosystem. Some of these threats are not overly worrying
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as they may be naturally resolved provided the natural conditions are restored. Other
factors can destroy ecosystems and render all or some of its life forms extinct. Here are a

Habitat Destruction
Economic activities such as logging, mining, farming and construction often
involve clearing out places with natural vegetative cover. Very often, tampering
with one factor of the ecosystem can have a ripple effect on it and affect many
more or all other factors of that ecosystem. For example, clearing a piece of forest
for timber can expose the upper layers of the soil to the sun's heat, causing erosion
and drying. It can cause a lot of animals and insects that depended on the shade
and moisture from the tree to die or migrate to other places.


Water, land and air pollution all together play a crucial role in the health of
ecosystems. Pollution may be natural or human caused, but regardless they
potentially release destructive agents or chemicals (pollutants) into the
environments of living things. In a lake, for example, it can create havoc on the
ecological balance by stimulating plant growth and causing the death of fish due
to suffocation resulting from lack of oxygen. The oxygen cycle will stop, and the
polluted water will also affect the animals dependent on the lake water.

Invasive species

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Any foreign specie (biological) that finds its way into an ecosystem, either by
natural or human introduction can have an effect on the ecosystem. If this alien
has the ability to prey on vulnerable and native members of that ecosystem, they
will be wiped out, sooner or later. One devastating impact of introducing alien
Nile Perch and Nile Tilapia into Lake Victoria in the 1970s was the extinction of
almost half of the 350+ endemic species of fish in the cichlid family.

UV Radiation

The suns rays play an important role in living things. UV rays come in three main
wavelengths: UVA, UVB and UVC, and they have different properties. UVA has
long wavelengths and reaches the earths surface all the time. It helps generate
vitamin D for living things. UVB and UVC are more destructive and can cause
DNA and cell damage to plants and animals. Ozone depletion is one way that
exposes living things to UVB and UVC and the harm caused can wipe lots of
species, and affect ecosystems members including humans.

Human Activities that Affect Ecosystem

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Human survival depends on the health of the ecosystem. An ecosystem is

comprised of communities of plants, animals and other organisms in a particular area that
interact with each other and their surrounding environment. Both living and non-living
things are considered part of an ecosystem. Humans threaten ecosystems by producing
waste, damaging habitats and removing too many species without giving the ecosystem
time to naturally regenerate.

When humans over-hunt key predators such as lions, tigers and bears, they
remove the very animals that keep plant consumers in balance and prevent
overgrazing. A healthy ecosystem has a balance of predators and prey that
naturally cycle through life and death sequences. Over-hunting often
results in ecosystem species imbalance and environmental stress. Humans
also practice commercial overfishing, where massive fishing nets result in
bycatch, in which unwanted fish are caught in nets and then thrown
away. Bycatch results in the death of one million sharks annually. Large
weights and heavy metal rollers that are used with the commercial fishing
nets also drag along the bottom of the ocean, destroying anything in their

path including fragile coral reefs.

Humans have always cut down trees throughout history. However, they
now have the resources of multimillion-dollar equipment that drastically
increases the rate of tree removal. The worlds rainforests are being
destroyed at a rate of 78 million acres per year, resulting in vegetation
degradation, nutrient imbalance, flooding and animal displacement. Trees

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also act as a natural air filter in the carbon cycle by taking in carbon
dioxide and releasing oxygen, so deforestation contributes to global
warming. Some estimates indicate that canopy forest species will be

reduced by 35 percent by 2040 if deforestation continues at the same rate.

Land Conversion
Through urban development, the continued rapid construction of road
systems and buildings has changed the Earth's natural surface, removing
soil nutrients, surface vegetation and trees that filter the air and equalize
the carbon cycle. Urbanization also displaces animals and increases
environmental pollution from vehicles and factories. A system of
highways also causes serious migratory obstacles for animals and replaces
native plants with impermeable concrete, resulting in habitat destruction.
Since the concrete is impermeable, it doesnt allow water to seep through,
resulting in increased vulnerability to flooding. This practice of human
construction continues at a rapid pace, leading to urban sprawl, where
cities are essentially forever expanding outside the traditional inner-city

Human Effects on Ecosystem

The earth's ecosystems are complex ecological environments which have
developed over billions years. The intricate components of an ecosystem cannot be
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severely altered because the changes will affect its success. However, humans harm the
environment by causing global warming, habitat destruction, acid deposition, and
environmental estrogens. Each effect demonstrates the conflict between humans and their
surrounding species.

Acid Deposition
Acid deposition results from human interference in ecosystems. Scientists
define acid deposition as the process of depositing acidic pollutants from
the earth's atmosphere to its surface. Although it was an unanticipated side
effect, it has become a large concern. Data suggests that humans cause
95% of the acid deposition that occurs on earth. Nitrogen and sulfur
oxides from automobiles and industry are the major sources of acid
deposition. Effects on the soil include cation depletion, aluminum
mobilization, and pH depression. This type of pollution also greatly affects
both aquatic and forest ecosystems by shifting the species diversity and
inhibiting chemical processes. Countries have now taken action and

established regulations to help reduce this problem.

Deformed Frogs
During the month of August 1995 a group of students from the Minnesota
New Country School in Le Seur made a startling discovery. The students
visited the Ney Pond to catch a glimpse of nature, but instead found frogs
that were grotesquely deformed. In the last two years deformed frogs have
been found across the country. Their discovery has started a national
search for the cause. The cause for these deformities has been a mystery,
but scientists come up with these main theories; natural parasites,

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increased ultraviolet radiation due to the hole in the ozone layer, viruses,
algae bloom, predators, pesticides. Frogs don't occur in nature at such
alarming numbers. The frog deformities are the result of human effects on

the ecosystem.
Environmental Estrogen
Playing the canary in a coal mine, wildlife often shows signals first, that
something is seriously wrong in the environment. This is the case with a
group of pollutants, most of which were first designed as pesticides, that
by chance have hormone-mimicking properties. There is now evidence
that these environmental estrogens are causing problems in humans as
well. This is a classic example of humans having adverse effects on their
environment, and eventually on ourselves. These compounds that were
designed to be harmless insect killers have turned out to have much more
drastic consequences.

Ecosystem Characterization
Ecosystems can be described at many different scales and therefore spatial and
temporal relationships of particular ecosystems or their components should be clearly
defined. Describing ecosystems is a routine scientific endeavor that leads to the
generation of classifications and maps.

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Making predictions about future states of ecosystems under various scenarios

requires elucidating the relationships between patterns and hypothesized causal factors,
that is, processes or agents of pattern information. Once a correlation or a cause effect
relationship between pattern and process is determined, predictions are made using (1)
data summarization resulting from classification and/or mapping, (2) statistical or
simulation models, or (3) a combination of these approaches.
Ecosystem characterization is carried out to map and conduct landscape
evaluation at scales ranging from the site to the continent. Ecological classifications are
developed to delineate ecological units at multiple scales using criteria appropriate to the
objectives of the project.

This report outlines an approach to Environmental Risk Assessment (ERA) with
the aim of assisting government agency staff in assessing and reporting environmental
conditions. The approach will also be of use to industry-based resource managers, First
Nations, nongovernmental organizations and others interested or currently participating
in land use planning or the review of development proposals.
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Environmental Risk Assessment is a process for estimating the likelihood or

probability of an adverse outcome or event due to pressures or changes in environmental
conditions resulting from human activities. ERA is complementary to methods used in
State of Environment Reporting (SOE), Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and
risk management. The approach involves identification, analysis and presentation of
information in terms of risk to environmental values to inform planning and decision
making processes it does not presume to provide all social and economic information
relevant to making decisions, nor is the approach intended to supplant planning and
management processes.
In the aspect of ecosystem, every ecosystem, from the Sahara Desert to the
Galapagos Islands, is unique. In spite of this diversity, all ecosystems can be described by
the interactions that occur between the community of organisms living there and the
environment. The boundaries of ecosystems are not closed, and ecosystems often interact
with each other. The living and non-living components of an ecosystem are tied together
by the flow of energy and chemical elements through the environment. These
interconnections give rise to the complex characteristics of ecosystems.
Definition of Terms
Acute Exposure - A single exposure to a toxic substance that results in severe biological
harm or death. Acute exposures are usually characterized as lasting no longer than a day
or a short time period relative to the life of the organism experiencing exposure.
Acute Toxicity - The deleterious, often poisonous effect of a substance characterized as
evoking biological harm, including death from a single exposure.
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Acute - Refers to a short time period. In biological testing this is associated with a
stimulus severe enough to induce a rapid response. The response measured may be
mortality or a variety of physiological, developmental, or morphological endpoints. Note
that acute is not synonymous with mortality in toxicity testing.
Analysis Phase - The middle stage of an Environmental Risk Assessment that describes
hazard and exposure conditions.
Assessment Endpoint - Formal expression of the actual environmental value to be
protected. The Assessment Endpoint is the product of the Problem Formulation Phase
of an Environmental Risk Assessment; it defines the focus of investigation.
Biological Agents - Living organisms such as bacteria, viruses, weeds, or insects that
have the potential to cause an adverse effect.
Chemical Agents - Chemicals, pesticides, or poisons that have the potential to cause an
adverse effect.
Chronic Toxicity - The deleterious, often poisonous effect of a substance characterized
as evoking biological harm, including death, from an extended exposure.
Chronic - Refers to a long time period. In biological testing, this is associated with a
stimulus that may require extended exposure before a response is manifested. The
response measured may be mortality or a variety of physiological, development, or
morphological endpoints. Note that chronic is not synonymous with survival in toxicity

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Comparative Risk Assessment - Relative or ranked estimates of adverse effects of

different agents or different environmental actions (e.g. alternative management options).
Conceptual Model - An illustration depicting relationships among human ecological
resources and their physical/chemical environment. The Conceptual Model incorporates
food web relationships, fate and transport of chemicals, and possible exposure routes. The
Conceptual Model is developed in the Problem Formulation Phase of an Environmental
Risk Assessment and helps guide discussions toward selection of Assessment Endpoints.
Deterministic Risk Assessment - An estimate of adverse effects based on discrete values
for hazard and exposure; innate variability and error are not incorporated in the estimates.
An example of the results of a Deterministic Risk Assessment might be the cancer risk
exceeds 5 x 10-6.
Dose - Measurement of the amount received by the receptor, either human, other animal,
plant, or microbe.
EC50 - The estimated concentration of the contaminating and/or toxic substance, which
results in a 50% reduction in some biological endpoint, measured at the conclusion of the
Ecological Endpoints - A measurement or assessment feature centered on populations,
communities, or ecosystem attributes.
Ecological Health - Being used as a synonym of ecosystem integrity. Borrowed from
human medical terms, it connotes wellness or freedom from disease or pain. To some,

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this term has anthropocentric features and as such is acceptable for policy discussions but
is not appropriate as a scientific term.
Ecological Integrity - The unimpaired condition or wholeness of biotic populations,
communities or ecosystems. Because ecosystems are comprised of assemblages of
organisms interacting in various ways among themselves and with the abiotic
environment, assessment of integrity is exceedingly subjective.
Ecological Risk Assessment - A subset of Environmental Risk Assessment; the
technology that evaluates interactions of non-human organisms and agents in the
environment. The Ecological Risk Assessment contains a description of ecological
resources and agents, analysis of agents and exposure potential, characterization of the
potential for adverse effects, and communication of information about the risks to plants
and animals.
Ecology - The study of distribution and abundance of organisms. It is an integrative
science focusing on the multitude of relationships among organisms and their
Ecosystem - An arbitrary unit of nature comprised of assemblages of organisms
operating as a system in which energy flows and nutrients are processed.
Ecotoxicology - The study of toxicity in the context of ecological assessment endpoints.
Environmental Assessment - An evaluation or appraisal of contaminants. This can be
accomplished solely through measurement and evaluation of concentrations of substances

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and potential movement of the substances without invoking actual biological effects at
the site.
Environmental Risk Assessment - The technology that evaluates interactions of agents,
humans, and ecological resources. Environmental Risk Assessment is comprised of
Human Health Risk Assessment and Ecological Risk Assessment. It contains a
description of human populations, ecological resources, and agents, analysis of agents
and exposure potential, characterization of the potential for adverse effects, and
communication of information about the risks to humans and ecosystems.
Epidemiological Study - Study of human population to identify causes of disease. These
studies generally compare the health status of a group that was previously exposed to an
agent with that of a comparable unexposed group.
Exposure - The condition under which an organism, (or more precisely the target tissue)
comes into actual contact with a stressor. This is sometimes assumed, under conservative
assumptions, to be the amount of contaminant in the environment. However, in site
specific considerations, the exposure value is substantially less than the quantity in the
Fate and Transport - The destiny and movement opportunities of a contaminating
substance. Chemical, biological, and/or physical processes may alter or degrade the
parent material; water, wind, or biological agents may influence movement from one
locus to another in some time interval.

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Final Tier - The iteration of an Environmental Risk Assessment emphasizes quantitative

descriptions of hazard and exposure to generate probabilistic estimates of risk. "Real
World" conditions are used in place of "worst case" estimates to improve the accuracy of
the risk estimates.
Hazard - A possible source of danger; the innate properties of an agent (biological,
chemical, or physical) to cause harm. (See Toxicity).
Human Health Risk Assessment - A subset of Environment Risk Assessment; the
technology that evaluates interactions of humans and agents in the environment. The
Human Health Risk Assessment contains a description of target human populations and
agents, analysis of agents and exposure potential, characterization of the potential for
adverse effects, and communication of information about the risks to individual humans.
Interference - The effect one organism has on another through the competition for
environmental resources (e.g. light, water, food) or addition of chemicals (e.g. antibiotics
or allelochemicals).
Iterative Process - The progressive refinement of focus and detail in Environmental Risk
Assessment through the Scoping, Screening and Final Tiers. Within a tier, portions of the
activity may also have several refinements such as development of the Conceptual Model
in Problem Formulation that begins as a generic construct and evolves to a project
specific illustration.
Likelihood - Statistical probability that an event will occur.

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Measurement Endpoint - The chemical, biological, physical, or ecological condition

that is quantified; ideally, this yields information on the effect of an agent; the
measurement endpoint must correspond to or be predictive of an assessment endpoint.
Physical Agents - Mechanical equipment, or machinery that has the potential to cause a
disturbance or an adverse effect.
Probabilistic Risk Assessment - An estimate of adverse effects that incorporate
statistical distributions for hazard and exposure estimates. An example of the results of a
Probabilistic Risk Assessment might be 90% likelihood of having a "50% reduction in a
fish population."
Probability - The chance that a given event will occur, generally stated as a value
ranging from 0 to 1.0.
Problem Formulation Phase - The starting point of an Ecological Risk Assessment that
focuses on developing explicit Assessment Endpoints and a Conceptual Model.
Qualitative Risk Assessment - A non-numerical description of adverse consequences,
often expressed in categories such as low, moderate, severe; often used in scoping or
screening level risk assessments to eliminate trivial issues.
Quality Assurance/Quality Control (QA/QC) - A system of procedures, checks, audits,
and corrective actions to ensure that research design and performance meet expected
standards of precision and accuracy.

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Quantitative Risk Assessment - A numerical description of adverse consequences

stating the probability of a specified magnitude of adverse effects occurring.
Resiliency - The capacity of an organism, population, community, or ecosystem to
recover from some stress (e.g., chemical insult) to a pre-stress condition once the stress
has been removed.
Risk Characterization Phase - The closing stage of an Environmental Risk Assessment
Tier that describes the relationship of hazard and exposure as an estimate of risk. It
describes the uncertainty incorporated in the estimate of risk which must be
communicated to risk managers and stakeholders.
Risk Management - Action to reduce or minimize risk and to provide options that
balance possible risks with economic gains.
Risk - The likelihood (probability) of an adverse effect, on human health or the
Scoping Tier - The initial Environmental Risk Assessment emphasizing the Problem
Formulation or Hazard Identification Phase; typically uses conservative estimates (i.e.,
worst case estimates) of hazard and exposure. Estimates of risk are often qualitative. The
objective of the Scoping Tier is to eliminate trivial issues before proceeding with detailed,
more expensive investigations.
Screening Tier - This is an intermediate level Environmental Risk Assessment that
incorporates greater rigor than the Scoping Tier in describing hazard and exposure

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conditions, but may still rely on conservative estimates and deterministic approaches to
estimating risk. The objective is to identify the major outstanding risk issues and, if
possible, eliminate some of the lesser issues before proceeding with detailed
Stakeholders - Individuals or groups who are directly or indirectly affected by a
management action and who have an interest in the outcome of such actions or
management decisions.
Uncertainty - Doubt, lack of assurance as to the true value of a variable, considering all
the possible values attributed to data or information. In Risk Assessment, uncertainty can
sometimes be expressed in quantitative terms.


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