2004. Dunsby. "Measuring Environmental Health Risks: The Negotiation of a Public Right-to-Know Law"


"Quantitative health risk assessment is a procedure for estimating the likelihood that exposure to environmental contaminants will produce certain adverse health effects, most commonly cancer. One instance of its use has been a California air toxics public “right-to-know” law. This article examines the ways in which credible health risk measurements were produced and challenged during the implementation of the California public policy. Fieldwork and documentary analysis finds that stakeholders negotiated within the formal constraints of the risk assessment procedures but still expressed their competing visions for the implementation of the risk communication policy. The abstract results of the method were contextualized according to different time frames and allocations of uncertainty. Furthermore, the article demonstrates that the political process privileged consistency of measurement over accuracy, revealing political negotiations at a fundamentally technical level. The struggle and variation in interpretations can be explained best by the demand to organize the program around the discordant values of democratic accountability and technical efficiency."

Keywords: risk assessment; measurement; air pollution; environmental justice; regulatory decision making


All rights reserved.



Contributed date

May 23, 2018 - 5:21pm

Critical Commentary

This 2004 article by Joshua Dunsby examines the affects of California public policy on the measurement of environmental health risks.



Cite as

Joshua Dunsby, "2004. Dunsby. "Measuring Environmental Health Risks: The Negotiation of a Public Right-to-Know Law"", contributed by Maggie Woodruff, STS Infrastructures, Platform for Experimental Collaborative Ethnography, last modified 29 May 2018, accessed 22 May 2024. https://stsinfrastructures.org/content/2004-dunsby-measuring-environmental-health-risks-negotiation-public-right-know-law