Probabilistic Approach for Cancer Risk Assessment

by Paul S. Watkins,
Timothy L. Jacobs,
Rory B. Conolly,
Warren T. Piver,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: North American Water and Environment Congress & Destructive Water


Carcinogenic chemicals have entered ground water systems from surface spills and leaching from subsurface disposal sites. Of particular interest in this study was the contaminant tetrachioroethylene (PCE), which is one of the leading organic groundwater contaminants in the United States. Current methods to quantify cancer risk from exposure to contaminated drinking water is based on a single chemical concentration found in the environment. This study proposes a new probabilistic approach to quantify the cancer risks associated with human exposure to the carcinogen PCE. It involves the integration of both a probability density function (PDF) describing the PCE exposure level and a cumulative density function (CDF) describing human incidence of liver tumor development to predict an overall liver cancer risk. Comparison of results of estimated human liver cancer risk from a hypothetical groundwater contamination case study between the new probabilistic method and a current default risk assessment practice shows that the new approach predicts a risk two to three orders of magnitude smaller.

Subject Headings: Diseases | Risk management | Probability | Groundwater pollution | PCE | Human and behavioral factors | Health hazards | United States

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