The Uncertain Risks We Run: Hazardous Materials

  • Marvin A. Schneiderman
Part of the General Motors Research Laboratories book series (RLSS)


The problems of risk assessment are discussed from the dual point of view of:
  1. 1.

    Who is exposed — and to how much and

  2. 2.

    Given the estimated levels of exposures, what estimates of risk can be developed.


The major issue of concern is that in general there is inadequate data on who is exposed, and almost no data on how much exposure there is. Individual exposure monitoring is rarely done (except for such things as radiation, through radiation badges) making it impossible to associate individual exposure with subsequent disease — if any. It is often difficult to know how many employees are exposed to a given agent. Before monitoring is undertaken an agent usually has to come under suspicion, thereby making inevitable unmonitored exposures to materials later found to be hazardous.

The mathematical models for extrapolation from species to species vary enormously in the predictions they yield, even when one accepts all the assumptions about species-to-species jumping. Recent work derived from Whittemore and Keller would seem to imply that in a multi-stage cancer process, the initiator stage dose-effect may pile up early in the life history of exposure, implying that several short term exposures to different carcinogens may create more risk than one long-term exposure. Promoting agents, according to this model, on the other hand, seem to have a different mode of action — with far more rapidly diminishing residual effects — so that the promoter may “have to be there” for its effect to be manifest. These different modes of action have implications for research and applications for prevention.


Cigarette Smoking Lung Cancer Mortality Synthetic Organic Chemical Work Exposure Uncertain Risk 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    M. Momiyama and K. Katayama, “Deseasonalization of Mortality in the World,” Int. J. Biometeor., 16(4): 329–342, 1972.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    J. E. Enstrom, “Rising Lung Cancer Mortality Among Non-Smokers,” J. Natl. Ca. Inst., 62: 755–760, 1979.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    E. Ashby, Reconciling Man with the Environment, Stanford University Press, Stanford, California, 1978.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Personal Correspondence with Dr. Knut Magnus, Norwegian Cancer Registry, 1979.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    National Occupational Hazard Survey, Vols. I–III, National Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 1977.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    M.A. Schneiderman, N. Mantel and C. C. Brown, “From Mouse to Man — Or How to get from the Laboratory to Park Avenue and 59th Street,” Annals of the New York Academy of Sci., 246: 237–248, 1975.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Saccharin: Technical Assessment of Risks and Benefits. National Academy of Sciences/ National Research Council, Washington, D.C., 1978Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    E. C. Hammond, I. J. Selikoff and H. Seidman, Asbestos Exposure: Cigarette Smoking and Death Rates. IN PRESS in Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1979.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    K. Rothman and A. Keller, “The Effect of Joint Exposure to Alcohol and Tobacco on Risk of Cancer of the Mouth and Pharynx,” J. Chron. Dis., 25: 711–716, 1972.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    P. Armitage and R. Doll, “A Two-stage Theory of Carcinogenesis in Relation to the Age Distribution of Human Cancer,” Brit. J. of Ca., 11:161, 1957.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    K. S. Crump, “Fundamental Carcinogenic Processes and their Implications for Low Dose Risk Assessment,” Ca. Res., 36: 2973, 1976.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    R. Peto, Epidemiology, Multi-stage Models, and Short-term Mutagenicity Tests. IN: Origins of Human Cancer. H. H. Hiatt, J. D. Watson, J. A. Winsten (Eds.), Cold Springs Harbor Symposium, 1403-1428, 1977.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marvin A. Schneiderman
    • 1
  1. 1.National Cancer InstituteBethesdaUSA

Personalised recommendations