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ECA Report no 22 - Risk assessment in relation to indoor air quality

Luxembourg: OPOCE, 2000 ISBN 92-828-9284-0 Copyright European Communities, 2000 Reproduction is authorised provided the source is acknowledged

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Author ECA Working Group 14

People will never live in a risk free environment. Still we must aim at minimizing all risks and most importantly risks that are imposed on without their consent or even knowledge. A building is built for and perceived as shelter - against weather and unwanted intruders, for thermal comfort, privacy and property. Health threatening risks that the dwellers of a building cannot sense or expect contradict directly the whole concept of a building.

Risk assessment is a scientific multidisciplinary paradigm to identify, quantify, describe and compare risks. Risk management is an administrative paradigm to develop and compare risks reduction priorities and alternatives, to organize and manage risk-controlling practices and to evaluate the achievements. Risk assessment and management have existed always. The general formal paradigms that are being applied in today's societies, however, are quite recent, and still under continuous development.

This main body of this report presents the state of the art of modern risk assessment and risk management paradigms, highlighting also the historical development that has lead to the present practices, and applies them specifically into building environments.

The examples section in the end of this report applies the formal risk assessment protocol of the EC (and similarly USEPA), to a variety of building related health risk. These examples are not intended as recommendations; instead they are selected to highlight the level of success (or failure) in applying one strict protocol to multiple extremely different problems.

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