The Illusion of Certainty

Health Benefits and Risks

  • Erik Rifkin
  • Edward Bouwer

About this book


The Illusion of Certainty: Health Benefits and Risks peels away the "veneer of certainty" which many of us attach to health risk and benefit information given to us in our daily lives. It was written and designed primarily to assist the public in comprehending and interpreting the uncertainty associated with the overwhelming amount of information on medical and environmental health risks.  The book uses unique, visual presentations and case studies to explain the benefits of medical screening tests (e.g., mammography, prostate and colorectal cancer screening, cholesterol screening) and drugs (e.g., statins, Vioxx™) and the risks associated with exposure to environmental contaminants (e.g., lead, dioxin, radon).  This book will help patients and their families get more involved in making medical decisions, and citizens face critical questions about the environment. By putting the complexities of risk analysis in terms the general public can relate to, the authors are empowering people to make well-informed decisions.

About the Authors:

Erik Rifkin is the president of an environmental consulting firm that specializes in the characterization of ecological and human health risks from exposure to soil, water, air and sediments. His firm provides assistance and guidance to federal and state regulatory agencies and corporations regarding the nature and magnitude of environmental risks and potential remediation strategies. Dr. Rifkin's broad experience includes the communication of health risks and benefits to groups concerned with these issues. 

Edward J. Bouwer is Professor of Environmental Engineering at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.  He has extensive experience with water and soil pollution and treatment.  His research provides guidance on defining and managing environmental risks and how to interpret human and ecological health risk data.  Dr. Bouwer has served on several National Research Council committees that provide guidance on managing human and ecological risk

Guest Author Bob Sheff, MD, received his medical training as a radiologist at UCLA and Johns Hopkins Medical Center. He spent his career praticing medicine and running one of the largest medical managed-care systems in the U.S. Now semi-retired, he devotes his time to helping non-profit organizations and individual people address their medical concerns. He lives in Columbia, Maryland.

Written for:
Undergraduate, graduate, medical and nursing students, engineers, government advisory agencies, research scientists, lawyers, politicians and anyone interested in risk analysis and the interpretation of risk values.


Assessment Medical Screening cancer screening human health risk organization risk assessment screening toxicity uncertainty

Authors and affiliations

  • Erik Rifkin
    • 1
  • Edward Bouwer
    • 2
  1. 1.Rifkin and AssociatesBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.Dept. of Geography & Environ. EngineeringJohns Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA

Bibliographic information