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A Framework for Unreasonable Risk in the Toxic Substances Control Act

Page, Talbot (1981) A Framework for Unreasonable Risk in the Toxic Substances Control Act. Social Science Working Paper, 368. California Institute of Technology , Pasadena, CA.

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"Unreasonable risk" is a key term in the Toxic Substances Control Act. A finding that a chemical "may present an unreasonable risk" must be made before testing can be required, under section 4a of the Act; a finding of "presents or will present an unreasonable risk" must be made before a chemical can be regulated under section 6a. In the act and legislative history, "unreasonable risk" was defined in very general terms as a balancing of the probability of harm, the severity of harm, and benefits of the chemical in question. The Environmental Protection Agency was delegated the responsibility to define a legal concept of unreasonable risk. I wrote this paper while in residence at the Office Pesticides and Toxic Substances (EPA) as part of the effort to define "unreasonable risk" for regulatory purposes. This paper develops a concept of unreasonable risk based on economic efficiency. Three ingredients are brought together in a common framework: baseline or existing information; the characteristics of a test, if testing is to be an option; and the valuation of the costs and benefits of the various control options. The framework is designed to accommodate "typical" characteristics of toxics problems: "zero-infinity" dilemmas and the low statistical power of tests. Because of pervasive uncertainties in both baseline information and in new information, several rules of thumb and policy directions are suggested. A complete definition of unreasonable risk would go beyond minimization of expected costs to incorporate considerations of equity.

Item Type:Report or Paper (Working Paper)
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Additional Information:Published as Page, Talbot. "A framework for unreasonable risk in the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)." Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 363.1 (1981): 145-166.
Group:Social Science Working Papers
Series Name:Social Science Working Paper
Issue or Number:368
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20171006-133444181
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Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:82174
Deposited By: Jacquelyn Bussone
Deposited On:06 Oct 2017 21:06
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 18:51

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