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Application of the Hazard Quotient Method in Remedial Decisions: A Comparison of Human and Ecological Risk Assessments

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This paper evaluates the relative roles of the human health hazard index (HI) and the ecological risk assessment hazard quotient (HQ) in remedial decision-making. Through an analysis of HI outcomes drawn from Superfund Records of Decision, the reduced importance of the HI statistic in human health risk assessments is demonstrated, and the high visibility of the ecological risk assessment (ERA) HQ for terrestrial receptors (birds and mammals) is underscored. Three HQ method limitations common to both HHRA and ERA, deriving either from the mathematical construct of the HQ (a simple binary measure, indicating that an animal's exposure either exceeds its toxicity value or does not) or from dose-response outcomes in animal trials, are reviewed. Two additional HQ limitations unique to ERA (i.e., a propensity for the HQ to easily exceed its threshold value, and a propensity for it to assume values that are unreasonably high), and deriving from the complexities of estimating bird and mammal dietary intakes of contaminants and the availability of toxicological effects information, are also identified. The paper cautions of the potential to err in concluding that terrestrial site receptors are at risk when the HQ threshold is exceeded, and regardless of the toxicological information (NOAELs, LOAELs, etc.) used. It recognizes that because other methods of terrestrial assessment are presently unavailable, HQs are sometimes, out of necessity, used to justify a remedial action. The analysis and discussion are intended to remind ecological risk assessors that the HQ is a measure of a level of concern only and not a measure of risk

Keywords: ecological risk assessment; hazard index; hazard quotient; screening

Document Type: Research Article


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

Publication date: 2003-01-01

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