The US National Research Council recently released a report promoting sustainability
assessment as the future of environmental regulation. Thirty years earlier, this organization (under the same senior author) had issued a similar report promoting risk
assessment as a new method for improving the science behind regulatory decisions. Tools for risk assessment were subsequently developed and adopted in state and federal agencies throughout the US. Since then, limitations of the traditional forms of risk assessment have prompted some dramatic modifications toward cumulative assessments that combine multiple chemical and non-chemical stressors in community settings. At present, however, there is little momentum within the risk assessment community for abandoning this evolved system in favor of a new sustainability-based one. The key question is, how best to proceed? Should sustainability principles be incorporated into current risk assessment procedures, or vice versa
? Widespread recognition of the importance of sustainability offers no clear guidance for the risk assessment community, especially in light of institutional commitments to sustainability tools and definitions that appear to have little in common with cumulative risk notions. The purpose of this paper is to reframe the sustainability challenge for risk assessors by offering analytical guidance to chart a way out. We adopt a decision analysis framework to overcome some conceptual barriers separating these two forms of assessment, and thereby, both escape the either
choice and accept the inevitability of sustainability as a central regulatory concern in the U.S.
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