The relationship between public policy makers and the scientific community was discussed. Three main issues were addressed: the basis on which the decision is taken to perform a risk assessment for a particular substance, the amount of scientific evidence which is required to institute risk management strategies, and which risk management strategies should be used. With regard to the first two points, it is stated that decisions must be made based on legal, scientific, and public opinion considerations. The risk management options that might be considered are no action, education, control, and ban. Control as a risk management technique is exemplified by the use of protective clothing and protective devices in certain occupations. As examples of the power of public opinion, the decline in the incidences of drunk driving brought about by newly formed pressure groups, and the failed efforts by health officials to institute some form of control of aspirin use in children in order to prevent the occurrence of the Reye's Syndrome, were mentioned. The author concludes that emotional, economic, and political considerations all will play a role in the decision making process, but he emphasizes that by improving the science of risk management and control, scientific considerations will play a greater role.
Proceedings of a Symposium on Epidemiology and Health Risk Assessment, Columbia, Maryland, May 14-16, 1985, Centers for Disease Control/NIOSH