Health & Environmental Risk Assessment
Risk assessment is the quantitative or qualitative evaluation of the potential for physical harm to result from a release of chemicals or pathogens. Risk assessment considers information describing an actual or potential release of chemicals or pathogens, the opportunity for human contact with the chemicals or pathogens, the potential level of exposure, the health effects of these agents, and the expected degree of harm. Risk assessments can be performed for hazardous waste sites, exposure to chemicals in the workplace or in consumer products, for waste incinerators, and many other situations. Many federal and state regulatory programs such as CERCLA (Superfund) and the Massachusetts Contingency Plan (MCP) use or require risk assessments.
Cambridge Environmental specializes in the quantitative assessment of risks to health and the environment posed by chemical, physical, and microbiological agents. We apply regulatory risk assessment techniques, but also implement more rigorous methods when the regulatory approaches are inappropriate or inadequate. We construct models based on first principles of science and engineering, support them by experimental data, and address uncertainties. Our assessments are guided by local concerns, guidelines, policies, and precedents.
Risk assessment confronts uncertainties at every step. When needed, we use probabilistic methods such as Monte Carlo simulations to quantify these uncertainties and to characterize risk more completely. Members of our staff are nationally recognized experts in the areas of uncertainty and probabilistic analyses of environmental and health risks.
We conduct multi-pathway human health risk assessments for new facilities (e.g., electric power plants, incinerators, manufacturing plants), existing facilities (e.g., power plants, refineries, waste-treatment plants, asphalt plants, cement kilns), and the sites of retired facilities (e.g., smelters, manufactured gas plants, landfills/waste disposal sites). Substances that have been evaluated in these assessments include arsenic, lead, mercury, vanadium, chlorinated alkenes, dioxins/furans, PCBs, pesticides, and radioisotopes. In every case, our risk assessments are site-specific and take into account the latest scientific and regulatory developments for the chemicals of concern.
Some of our projects have focused on ecological issues as well as on impacts to human health. Careful assessments of effects on community structure and ecosystem dynamics require efficient and sophisticated tools. Geographic information systems (GIS), for example, can provide valuable information on environmental and ecological impacts. GIS allows the overlay of habitat areas on a map of chemical concentrations on a site; thus we may estimate contaminant concentrations that are specific to individual habitats.