Toxicology Basis for Risk Communication: The Example of Glycol Ethers
Lisa Brooks, Ph.D. - AT&T Bell Laboratories (SSA Journal Volume 7 Number 3 - October 1993 pp. 11 - 14 )
Rick communication for glycol ethers poses three challenges to health and safety professionals: simplifying confusing nomenclature, explaining the complexity of toxicologic issues that underlay risk assessment for these chemicals, and dealing objectively with the personal and emotional nature of reproductive health. To be an effective communicator, the health and safety professional must be perceived as a trusted and credible source of scientific information. Demonstrating technical understanding and presenting the toxicology of glycol ethers in terms comfortable for the audience will assist in meeting this goal. Effective communication will be further enhanced by professional empathy rather than personal sympathy when dealing with the sensitive subjects of reproductive and developmental health and hazards. Risk, i.e., the probability of occurrence of an adverse effect, is the mathematical product of hazard and exposure. In occupational settings, hazard is controlled by material/process selection and substitution, and exposure is controlled by work practices, engineering controls, and personal protective equipment. Glycol ethers exemplify driving risk toward zero by controlling both hazard and exposure. Hazard identification for glycol ethers is based on the chemistry, metabolism, dose-response, and interspecies extrapolation components of toxicology. Exposure evaluation for glycol ethers will include air monitoring but should emphasize the propensity for skin absorption and the worker tendency to avoid personal protective equipment which may adversely affect manual dexterity. The overall risk characterization for each glycol ether will account for all of these factors. To effectively communicate the relative risks of various glycol ethers, the health and safety professional must understand and convey the toxicologic principle and components of hazard, exposure, and risk, and application of these concepts to reproductive and developmental toxicity. Almost certainly, there will be a need to demystify multiple systems of nomenclature for glycol ethers and to explain epidemiology study design, conduct, and results.