The student learns the general principles of human and ecotoxicological risk assessment. The assessment of risks to ecosystems includes the following aspects: (i) what is the importance of biodiversity, (ii) what is the likelihood of secondary poisoning via the food chain, (iii) how can you detect possible effects of pollutants on organisms and (iv) how can thresholds for the protection of aquatic ecosystems be established?
The human risk assessment tries to address various questions such as (i) what are the critical steps in assessing the hazards of substances to humans, (ii) which tests and quality criteria are used, (iii) how do you evaluate a dose-response relationships, (iv) how do you extrapolate data collected from experimental animals to humans, (v) how do you deal with uncertainties, and (vi) how can you use and interpret population data? In addition to assessing hazards, the evaluation of exposure to pollutants from the environment, food or the workplace is addressed. The course provides insight into the various relevant routes of exposure for humans, the methods to measure/evaluate exposure and the importance of population surveys in this respect. The systematic collection of hazard and exposure data is necessary for the final risk assessment. The course will also highlight the efforts made at international level to reach consensus on the outcome of the risk assessment process. The different possible ways to manage the risks (e.g. maximum levels, legal frameworks, precautionary principle, etc.) and how these can be improved on the basis of the risk assessment are also discussed in more detail. Finally, consideration is also given to the factors that play an important role in risk perception and communication of environmental and health-related risks.