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Integrating Susceptibility into Environmental Policy: An Analysis of the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for Lead
RAND Corporation, 1200 South Hayes Street, Arlington, VA 22202, USA
Department of Health Policy and Management, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 624 N. Broadway, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA
RHWhite Consulting, 12900 Tourmaline Terrace, Silver Spring, MD 20904, USA
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 1 February 2012; in revised form: 20 March 2012 / Accepted: 21 March 2012 / Published: 27 March 2012
Abstract: Susceptibility to chemical toxins has not been adequately addressed in risk assessment methodologies. As a result, environmental policies may fail to meet their fundamental goal of protecting the public from harm. This study examines how characterization of risk may change when susceptibility is explicitly considered in policy development; in particular we examine the process used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set a National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for lead. To determine a NAAQS, EPA estimated air lead-related decreases in child neurocognitive function through a combination of multiple data elements including concentration-response (CR) functions. In this article, we present alternative scenarios for determining a lead NAAQS using CR functions developed in populations more susceptible to lead toxicity due to socioeconomic disadvantage. The use of CR functions developed in susceptible groups resulted in cognitive decrements greater than original EPA estimates. EPA’s analysis suggested that a standard level of 0.15 µg/m3 would fulfill decision criteria, but by incorporating susceptibility we found that options for the standard could reasonably be extended to lower levels. The use of data developed in susceptible populations would result in the selection of a more protective NAAQS under the same decision framework applied by EPA. Results are used to frame discussion regarding why cumulative risk assessment methodologies are needed to help inform policy development.
Keywords: cumulative risk assessment; neurocognitive functioning; lead; nonchemical stressors; air standards; policy analysis
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Chari, R.; Burke, T.A.; White, R.H.; Fox, M.A. Integrating Susceptibility into Environmental Policy: An Analysis of the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for Lead. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2012, 9, 1077-1096.
Chari R, Burke TA, White RH, Fox MA. Integrating Susceptibility into Environmental Policy: An Analysis of the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for Lead. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2012; 9(4):1077-1096.
Chari, Ramya; Burke, Thomas A.; White, Ronald H.; Fox, Mary A. 2012. "Integrating Susceptibility into Environmental Policy: An Analysis of the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for Lead." Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 9, no. 4: 1077-1096.