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   Course Title    Environmental Health Risk Assessment
Lecturer    Igor Mardari
Institution    State University of Moldova
Country    Moldova

Aim of the course

The course will enable the participants to deal with major aspects and methodologies of environmental and human health risk assessment, which is an effective tool for setting standards, setting priorities and providing assistance in decision making. In this regard the course should develop such skills as:

  • Systems analysis capability which could be used for scenario development
  • Technical experience that can be used to quantify hazards and estimate risks
  • Statistical and computer modelling skills that can be applied to uncertainty analysis, and
  • Expertise that can be used to quantify the costs or benefits associated with assessing priorities.

Role of the course in the overall degree curriculum

The means by which risk is managed and communicated to the public and consequences of failing to undertake adequate risk assessment need to be known by environmental practitioners. That is why this course is of major importance for students enrolled at the Master of Sciences in Environmental Protection Program which commenced recently at the State University of Moldova, Department of Industrial and Ecological Chemistry.

Teaching approach

Lectures and discussions, investigation of case studies, using of computer teaching programs, performing of group assignments using computer data bases and modelling programs. Posing and answering questions by students will be strongly encouraged.

Course content

The unit will consist of 9 lectures (18 academic hours) and 3 seminars (12 academic hours).

First week

Lecture 1

Purposes of risk analysis. Lecture describes the use of risk analysis for determining environmental and health problems, determining the effectiveness of different control techniques designed to reduce risk, selecting sites for potentially hazardous facilities, setting management priorities. Further on, the components of risk assessment are discussed. Hazard vs. Risk. In this phase the question to be answered is : Does a hazard exist? The lecture introduces such techniques as epidemiological studies, in vivo animal bioassays, short-term in vitro cell and tissue culture tests, and structure activity relationships analysis.

Lecture 2

Chemicals in the environment. The purpose of the lecture is to discuss the relationship between the presence of chemical in the environment and the exposure. Topics to be described are as follows: chemical identity; environmental media; chemical concentration in an environmental medium: the role of chemical concentration in risk; measured data, use of models and predicted data as methods to express the concentration of chemicals; using data on environmental concentrations.

Lecture 3

Chemical hazard information. Types of chemical hazard. The quantitative and qualitative differences between two general classes of toxic hazard and expressing non-cancer toxic hazards and expressing carcinogenic hazards are the main objectives of the lecture.

Seminar 1

Sources of risk assessment data. Using chemical hazard data. Application of the computer aid software package "Comparative risk assessment" from Pardue University as teaching tool. Application of this program will give students additional information on different subjects of risk assessment taught on class.

Second week

Lecture 4

Exposure assessment. The purpose of the lecture is to introduce the techniques used to estimate or directly measure the quantities or concentrations of risk agents received by individuals, populations or ecosystems. The ways in which it are discovered 1) substances that target organisms, species, and ecosystems are exposed to; 2) how much exposure; 3) in what way, 4) for how long ; and 5) under what circumstances is the objective of the lecture.

Lecture 5

Exposed populations and scenarios. Population characteristics, exposure and risk. Variations among populations. Populations characteristics that affect specific exposure scenarios. Exposures scenarios – overview. Selecting scenarios for various contaminated media. Exposure parameters. Dermal absorption.

Lecture 6

Exposure monitoring. Cross-Media transfer equations. Volatilisation to shower air. Volatilisation to household air. Volatilisation Outdoors: Irrigation. Contamination on suspended particulates (dust). Sediment to air. Uptake by plants. Uptake by animals. Uptake by fish and shellfish. Chemical properties used in predicting exposure. Expressing exposure. Combining exposure for multiple scenarios.

Seminar 2

The application of computer software "Risk assistant". The seminar is meant to familiarise students with computer software "Risk assistant" which is a powerful, yet easy to use, set of tools and databases that allows to establish health risks from chemicals in the environment in particular settings.

Third week

Lecture 7

Dose response assessment. Lecture will contain the description of the two main steps of the dose-response assessment: 1) determining the doze of the risk agent received by exposed populations and 2) estimating the relationship between different doses and the magnitude of their adverse effects. Statistical description of the qualitative relationship between a dose and its adverse effects.

Lecture 8

Synthesising and interpreting risk estimates. The meaning of risk estimates. Carcinogenic risks. Non-carcinogenic risks. Risk characterisation. Description of numerical risk estimates such as individual lifetime risk, population or societal risk, relative risk, standardised mortality ratio, loss of life expectancy.

Lecture 9

Uncertainty in risk estimates. Exposure uncertainty. Uncertainty in toxicology. Analysing uncertainty. Risk from multiple chemicals Risk from multiple exposures. Expression of uncertainty. Probability distributions. Confidence intervals. Point estimates. Worst case/best case. Propagation of uncertainties.

Seminar 3

Case-study: Waste are grouping 2. Phase I task data report: Ecological risk assessment and White Oak Creek Watershed screening.


Method of assessment

Students will submit individual papers written for the course and complete a group project.

Key words:

Risk assessment, human health, environment, risk characterisation, toxicity assessment, risk management


A. Mandatory

John J.Cohrssen, Vincent T.Covello, 1989. Risk Analysis: A Guide to Principles and Methods for Analysing Health and Environetnal risks. Department of Commercenational Technical Information.

L.W. Barnthouse, & G.W.Sutter, 1986. User’s Manual for Ecological Risk Assessment. Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tennessee

B. Reccomended

Harte, J. Holdren, C. Schneider, R. Shirley C. 1991. Toxics from A to Z. A guide to everyday pollution hazards. University of California Press. Berkeley, Loss Angeles, London.

EPA, OERRW, 1989. Risk Assessment Guidance for Superfund. Volume I: Human Health Evaluation Manual (part A).

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