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An Overview of the Risk Assessment Process and Limitations of Air Studies

Dollis Wright, Air Quality Issues Affecting Oil, Gas, and Mining Development in the West

This general overview presentation addresses the limitations of the risk assessment process as well as current air studies that have been done in and around oil and gas activities. A brief description of risk assessment is included in an effort to assist the reader in understanding the limitations of the studies. The paper is supplemented by a PowerPoint presentation that is available.


The determination of the likelihood and severity of chemical harm to individuals living in communities where oil and gas activities are occurring has many limitations. These limitations are compounded by authors drawing conclusions about health risk that are not based on risk assessment principles. The impacts of chemicals are often presented by authors as a list of all their possible health effects with no regard or mention of dose-response relationship, exposure analyses, or risk characterization. This sensationalizing of data may be diverting individuals from addressing identified and controllable health risk that are not chemically induced. The precautionary principle is commonly suggested by special interest groups when there are data gaps in environmental data. The limitations of this principle are presented. There is a need for scientific accountability and integrity when reporting risk to communities.


We all face risk throughout o