Environmental Geochemistry and Health

, Volume 31, Issue 2, pp 205–217 | Cite as

Uncertainty in the assessment of hazard, exposure and risk

  • Michael H. RamseyEmail author
Review Paper


The terminology, concepts and current approaches to uncertainty in the assessment of hazard, exposure and risk are reviewed. Five generic questions are discussed on uncertainty, including sources, levels, when and how it should be dealt with or reduced, what are our gaps in understanding and how they can be addressed. A case study of lead exposure of children in Lavrion, Greece, is used to exemplify these questions and possible answers. Estimation of uncertainty may be improved by the use of interorganisational studies to capture sources of uncertainty that are often overlooked. Gaps identified in our understanding of uncertainty include: a limitation in the availability of basic measurements, a lack of knowledge of the environmental processes, an inability to predict the effects of mixtures, the aetiology of disease and devising procedures for optimal resource allocation in impact assessment.


Uncertainty Sampling Risk assessment Exposure 



This research paper arose out of multidisciplinary discussions held at the MULTITUDE/SEGH workshop, held in June 2007 in Liverpool, UK. Participants with a wide range of expertise were brought together with the authors and this interpretation owes a great deal to those resultant discussions. The list of participants at the workshop are Louise Ander, Katy Boon, Paul Cleary, Elisa Giubilato, James Grellier, Gibby Koshy, Maria Lathouri, Paolo Luria, George Onuoha, Lesley Rushton, Tom Shepherd and Chaosheng Zhang. This research and the workshop was supported by The Joint Environment & Human Health Programme (supported by NERC, EA, Defra, the MOD, MRC, The Wellcome Trust, ESRC, BBSRC, EPSRC and HPA) and administered via NERC grant NE/E009484/1.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biology and Environmental Science, School of Life SciencesUniversity of SussexFalmerUK

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