Key messages

  • Environmental hazards may be chemical, biological or physical in nature.
  • A risk assessment is a systematic approach for characterising the potential for harm under a certain set of conditions and timeframe.
  • Risk assessment can be used as a tool to inform the risk management process.

Environmental hazards may be chemical, biological or physical in nature. While a hazard may have the potential to cause harm, the degree of harm that is likely to occur from exposure to the hazard depends on a range of factors, including the characteristics of the hazard and exposed populations, the exposure conditions and the duration of exposure. A risk assessment is a systematic approach for characterising the potential for harm under a certain set of conditions and timeframe.

In the context of environmental health, risk assessment can be used to estimate the probability that, within a certain timeframe, an adverse outcome will occur in a population exposed to chemical pollutants (in air, water, soil or food), microbiological contaminants (in food or water) or physical hazards (such as noise and radiation sources) under a specific set of conditions.

Risk assessment can be used as a tool to inform the risk management process.

Guidelines for assessing human health risks from environmental hazards

These guidelines provide a national approach to environmental health risk assessment methodology, and are applicable to a range of environmental hazards, including chemical, physical and biological hazards. The guidelines are intended for use by environmental health agencies preparing and reviewing environmental health risk assessments, regulatory agencies reviewing environmental health risk assessments, and the broader community seeking information about the processes of environmental health risk assessment in Australia.

Australian exposure factor guidance handbook

The Australian exposure factor guidance handbook is intended as a companion to the Guidelines for assessing human health risks from environmental hazards. The handbook provides guidance on appropriate default parameters for input into the exposure assessment component of human health risk assessments when project-specific data are unavailable. The guide provides exposure factor data that are specific to Australian populations.

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