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Conscious worst case definition for risk assessment, part II A methodological case study for pesticide risk assessment

This paper illustrates, by a case study, how to apply the conceptual Worst-Case Definition (WCD) model, developed in the methodological paper in the current journal, by Sørensen et al. (2010-this issue). The case is about eco-toxicological risk assessment of pesticides under Danish conditions. Cumulative aspects are included on a conceptual basis as elements of the worst-case conditions. This defines factors that govern the risk assessment, including location in time and space of risk “hotspots”. Two pillars of concern drive the conceptual modelling: (1) What to protect (denoted Protected Units (PUs)) and (2) the reason for increased risk level (denoted Causes of Risks (CRs)). Both PUs and CRs are analysed using hierarchical procedures that facilitate a complete listing of concrete factors governing increased risk for adverse effect due to agricultural usage of pesticide. The factors governing pesticide risk are combined in a context that combines the protection of relevant groupings of organisms with the factors for increased risk level for each of these. Identification of the most important relations between defined types of PUs and CRs is illustrated using expert knowledge. Existing databases are used to form spatial distributed risk indicators as estimators for a selection of important relations between PUs and CRs. This paper illustrates how the WCD model can break down the complex issue of uncertainty into fractions that are more open for evaluations. Finally, it shows application of risk indicators in a multi-criterion analysis using respectively self organizing mapping and partial order technique in a comparative analysis that highlights critical aspects of uncertainty, due to the ambiguity between single risk indicator rankings.

Sorensen, P.B., Giralt F., Rallo R., Espinosa G., Munier B., Gyldenkaerne S., Thomsen M. (2010) Conscious worst case definition for risk assessment, part II A methodological case study for pesticide risk assessment. Science of the Total Environment,408:3860-3870 

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Uncertainty Reduction in Environmental Data with Conflicting Information

The assessment of ecotoxicological effects of chemicals for regulatory purposes requires large amounts of experimental data which are expensive to obtain and eventually might entail exhaustive animal testing. The required decision-making processes in this regulatory context, must often be carried out with limited or even contradictory sources of information. To benefit from all sources of information without compromising the quality of the decision process, uncertainty management and reduction techniques, such as the Dempster-Shafer theory of evidence, have to be applied. This theory was applied to both experimental and in silico biodegradation data sources to assess chemical persistence. Uncertainties of the initially less uncertain estimates for biodegradation rates in water were reduced by as much as 20-60%. The analysis showed that conflicting evidence can be detected, quantified, and redistributed proportionally among all the feasible subsets of hypotheses. The advantages of the Dempster-Shafer theory over Bayesian approaches to represent evidence concerning hypotheses by assigning probabilities were also analyzed.