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Can Ecological Receptors Really Be At Risk?

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Birds and mammals at hazardous waste sites are routinely modeled for their potential to display harmful toxicological effects as a result of their exposures to contaminants. Although standard desktop measures of the potential for toxicological endpoints to be reached commonly suggest that these receptors should be at ill health (e.g., experiencing reproductive impairment), evidence is lacking from the field that such effects are occurring. Plausibly, the excessive time lapse (frequently several decades) from contaminant release event to site ecological risk assessment, can explain the disconnect. Aided by their relatively brief life spans, these modeled ecological receptors have produced multiple generations to date and may have outbred the chemical stress. In light of the absence of observed health impacts in birds and mammals since the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Superfund program, there may be no need to continue assessing the health of these species. Additionally, given the very few reported instances of observed health effects at terrestrial sites, it may be prudent to replace risk assessment with impact assessment as the essence of a revamped ecological assessment process.

Keywords: ecological risk; hazard quotient; impact; terrestrial receptor

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Environmental Health Risk Assessment Program, U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine, 5158 Blackhawk Road, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Aberdeen, Maryland 21010-5403, USA

Publication date: January 1, 2003


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