RISK ASSESSMENT: An Environmental Management Tool
Sanexen is the leader in environmental risk assessment in Quebec and offers extensive human health and environmental risk assessment services. Sanexen’s multidisciplinary team of professionals (toxicology, ecotoxicology, biology, ecology, environmental modelling, environmental engineering, etc.) has many years of experience in the environmental and risk assessment fields, providing clients with a comprehensive expertise, as well as custom solutions to meet all risk assessment demands.
Since 1996, Sanexen has successfully carried out several hundred studies for public and private clients in Quebec and across Canada. Sanexen has also developed and implemented TerraSysTM, a software program for the assessment of ecotoxicological risks of contaminated sites. This innovative software combines all the functions required to perform an ecotoxicological risk assessment, either in a terrestrial or aquatic environment.
What is risk assessment?
In the environmental field, risk assessment is a study to determine the magnitude of the effects of a specific contamination on human health or living organisms. It is applicable for issues involving toxic, radioactive or pathogenic agents in order to assess the risk of contaminants under study-specific conditions. In general, a risk assessment describes the behaviour and fate of contaminants in the environment and the food chain to determine population exposure levels, gathers scientific data on the effects of the agents to determine safe exposure levels, and assesses risks by comparing population exposure levels to established safe levels.
Risk assessment is part of an environmental management process
based on risks.
The advantages of this approach are numerous:
- Risk assessment addresses site-specific conditions; these conditions can greatly influence the risks to which persons or living organisms are exposed;
- Risk assessment identifies real risks arising from contamination, even when no standards (criteria or guideline) for a given substance or pathogenic agent exist; accordingly, this approach is often safer than using arbitrary generic standards;
- Risk-based management is often considerably less expensive than the more traditional approach based on meeting generic standards.
Field of Application
A risk assessment can be carried out for all situations involving chemical, microbiological or radioactive agents. It evaluates the contamination of the environment (soils, air, surface water, groundwater or sediments), as well as the safety of food, drinking water and various consumer products. The main applicable fields are:
- Remediation of contaminated sites;
- Management of industrial waste and emissions;
- Development or revision of environmental standards;
- Environmental impact studies;
- Occupational health and safety;
- Development of environmental management systems (ISO 14001 or other);
- Life cycle assessment;
- Sustainable development;
- Protection of public health.
- Expertise in toxicology and scientific literature review;
- Development or revision of environmental standards;
- Planning and interpretation of toxicity assays.
Human Health Risk Assessment:
- Human health risk assessment of toxic agents;
- Human health risk assessment of radioactive agents;
- Human health risk assessment of pathogenic agents;
- Knowledge and application of federal and provincial risk assessment guidelines;
- Determinist and stochastic methods.
Ecological Risk Assessment:
- Ecotoxicological risk assessment of chemicals to wildlife and plant species in terrestrial and aquatic habitats;
- Ecological field survey;
- Planning and interpretation of toxicity assays;
- Weight of evidence method.
- Vapour intrusion;
- Air dispersion of industrial emissions;
- Fate of effluents in water;
- Multimedia transfer of chemicals;
- Food chain exposure to chemicals.
- Remedial action plan for contaminated sites;
- Certificate of approval for industrial projects;
- Statistical and geostatistical data processing;
- Risk communication and client support for legal or public hearings;
- Public information sessions;
- Expert witness.
In Quebec, the Environment Quality Act specifies provisions regarding the management of contaminated properties based on the risk assessment approach. By limiting the decontamination work to the areas presenting a risk to human health or the environment, this approach often leads to the re-use of contaminated sites which, due to prohibitive costs, may not otherwise be remediated. Similar legislation exists in other provinces and states around the world.
Sanexen’s Risk Assessment team works in conjunction with its Site Remediation team to offer integrated solutions for the management of contaminated sites, from the initial assessment of the site (Phase I) to its final remediation.
Assessment Tools and Sofware
TerraSysTM is the first professional software program to combine all tools required for ecotoxicological risk assessments. Its analytical capacity rests on a powerful algorithm that enables the modelling of concentrations and receptor exposure levels, even in complex systems composed of multiple trophic levels.
Developed primarily for cases involving contaminated soil, TerraSysTM possesses the tools necessary to assess various situations involving toxic substances in both terrestrial and aquatic habitats in the environment.
The software comprises multiple databases that provide TerraSysTM with an incomparable capacity for performing ecotoxicological risk assessments on receptor-contaminant combinations for which no reference values are currently available. TerraSysTM performs all stages of an analysis, from data entry to final risk assessment, in a consistent, integrated manner.
TerraSys GeoAssistantTM was developed in order to facilitate the documentation of values required for environmental modelling. This program provides the user with local values for the main variables required in environmental modelling, anywhere in the world, specifically when required to estimate the atmospheric dispersion of contaminants.
In addition to variables directly related to local climatological conditions,TerraSys GeoAssistantTM provides local or regional values for several other environmental variables, especially soil properties and vegetative cover. These variables are also used in numerous environmental models.