Assessing Risks for Inhalation and Ingestion of Pollutants
Environmental Justice in Chester, PA
Risk Communication: Media Presentation Exercise
Sources of Potential Groundwater Contamination
Toxicants and California Blackworms
Toxicological Case Study
Which Side to Choose? An Exercise in Choices and Ethics
|A Scientific View of Risk
This background document looks at some everyday risks and compares them with perceived risks of contracting cancer and other diseases through environmental pollution. It also discusses some of the reasons why the general public and risk professionals frequently have differing views on risk.
Over the past few decades, Americans have become increasingly concerned about not only the management and disposal of waste but also the difficulty of balancing the benefits of a healthy environment with the economic costs of achieving those benefits. Conflict often arises over what disposal methods should be used, whether costs of certain disposal methods outweigh benefits (or vice versa), and who should bear the economic burden. Many factors must be considered when discussing the topic of waste management: Economic, political, environmental, personal, and ethical issues all play major roles in the decision-making process.
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The subject of toxicology can be quite complex and a basic understanding of its fundamental principles is important if citizens are to make learned decisions about the risks and choices inherent to environmental health issues.
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Groundwater hydrology is the study of the occurrence, movement, and quality of underground water. The field is interdisciplinary, drawing on the subjects of physics, geology, chemistry, soil science, and plant physiology.
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Polls show that the public’s top environmental concern is toxic releases from active and abandoned hazardous waste sites. This background discusses some of the scientific factors considered in evaluating the environmental risks posed by these facilities.
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This investigation focuses on the basics of human and ecological risk assessment. The activity uses hypothetical scenarios to investigate inhalation of an airborne pollutant and ingestion of a waterborne pollutant. Working in pairs, participants investigate differences in overall exposure to contaminants by calculating inhalation intakes and water ingestion doses that result from varying body weight, years of exposure, inhalation or water ingestion rates, and duration of each exposure event for different hypothetical individuals. By working through these calculations, participants gain an understanding of risk assessment and of what conditions are most vital in reducing exposures to air-and waterborne pollutants. They also gain an awareness of how difficult it is to find clear-cut answers to environmental problems.
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Environmental justice is a sensitive social issue as well as an environmental concern. The goal of this exercise is to increase participants’ awareness of environmental justice issues through discussion and role-playing.
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Public perceptions of risks are often at odds with those of professional risk analysts, who frequently claim that the general public tends to exaggerate low-risk processes and activities and underrate more mundane, riskier activities. However, recent studies have shown that public perception of risk is not based as much on ignorance as it is on a broader notion of risk. People tend to fear risks that are uncontrollable and unobservable more than mundane and voluntary risks-even if the latter are demonstrably higher.
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Participants are given basic information about an environmental contamination scenario. Then, in groups, they prepare a brief broadcast or print news report from one of five possible viewpoints.
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This activity is about the potential risks to groundwater supplies. You may wish to use it following a "parts per million" activity. Participants construct several models that demonstrate potential sources of contamination, including agricultural fields, oil spills, disposal lagoons, sinkholes, landfills, leaky barrels, and faulty septic systems. Each participant will construct one type of system, answer the assigned questions, and share his or her findings with the other members of the group.
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In this investigation, participants work in groups to determine the normal behavior of California blackworms (Lumbriculus variegatus). They then determine how various concentrations of assigned toxicants affect the worms’ behavior. This investigation introduces testing of potential toxicants, an important component in environmental health science.
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In this activity, participants are given a list of health effects resulting from exposure to a chemical process. Based only on this information, participants decide what actions should be taken to address potential health hazards. At the end of the discussion, participants are informed that the chemical process is cigarette smoking.
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In this exercise, you will read a question or phrase to the class and participants will express their personal agreement or disagreement. This can be used as a starting point for a discussion on how we make personal choices.
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