Upholding science in health, safety and environmental risk assessments and regulations

M Aschner, HN Autrup, CL Berry, AR Boobis
A public appeal has been advanced by a large group of scientists, concerned that science has been misused in attempting to quantify and regulate unmeasurable hazards and risks. The appeal recalls that science is unable to evaluate hazards that cannot be measured, and that science in such cases should not be invoked to justify risk assessments in health, safety and environmental regulations.

The appeal also notes that most national and international statutes delineating the discretion of regulators are ambiguous about what rules of evidence ought to apply. Those statutes should be revised to ensure that the evidence for regulatory action is grounded on the standards of the scientific method, whenever feasible. When independent scientific evidence is not possible, policies and regulations should be informed by publicly debated trade-offs between socially desirable uses and social perceptions of affordable precaution. This article explores the premises, implications and actions supporting the appeal and its objectives.