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Developing a framework for the economic analysis of risk management options to control pollutants with uncertain environmental impacts

  • 1 May, 2015
  • Wageningen University, Environmental Economics and Natural Resources
  • prof. dr EC van Ierland
  • dr HP Weikard

In the risk management of chemicals there is an increasing demand for the use of economic decision-support tools to facilitate regulatory decisions, which must balance positive and negative impacts of different policy options. Persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) and very persistent, very bioaccumulative (vPvB) as well as endocrine disrupting (ED) chemicals are particularly relevant, because their properties imply a high and long-lasting damage potential for the natural environment. However, there is a lack of information on the actual effects of PBT/vPvB as well as ED chemicals on the environment or on human health resulting from their specific hazards. This hampers the estimation of their risks and, in turn, a quantification of their impacts and damages. Consequently, a fundamental challenge for the economic analysis of chemicals’ risk management is to adequately capture the structural patterns of the underlying regulatory concerns of PBT/vPvB and ED chemicals, and to show how different impacts can be assessed and balanced against each other even if risk information is incomplete or lacking and environmental effects of these chemicals are uncertain.
The PhD project will contribute to solving this challenge by addressing the following research objectives:

1. To review the (historic) foundations of economic analysis for regulatory decision-making on the risk management of PBT/vPvB and ED chemicals
2. To develop a framework for economic analysis of risk management of PBT/vPvB chemicals, which integrates all relevant determinants and scientific knowledge for decision-making
3. To explore, if the framework for PBT/vPvB is transferable to the case of ED chemicals and how it will have to be adapted in order to account for fundamental differences
4. To identify requirements and to develop best practice guidelines to operationalise these frameworks for economic analysis of PBT/vPvB and ED chemicals taking into account experiences and perceptions of stakeholders in the regulatory process
The PhD project takes an interdisciplinary approach. The methods developed combine toxicological and ecotoxicological approaches for hazard and risk assessment with economic methods guiding decision-making under uncertainty and risk (e.g. cost-benefit analysis, cost-effectiveness analysis, multi-criteria analysis). In addition, methods for elicitating stakeholder preferences and attitudes (semi-structured interviews, choice experiments) will be applied.

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Researcher

Karen Thiele

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