A risk that has significantly smaller and/or fewer detrimental consequences than the potential hazards of alternative courses of action. Environmental regulations such as those of the US Environmental Protection Agency define acceptable risk as a lifetime exposure level to known carcinogens that does not increase cancer risk by an amount varying from more than 1 chance in 1 million to 1 in 10,000 or higher, depending on the substance or factor. This definition is used when establishing a cleanup goal for hazardous waste sites. However, the loose and variable criteria for what constitutes “acceptable” make it essential to specify the context in which the term is used. In a broader context, the definition of an acceptable risk depends on who is assessing the risk. There is an ethical difference depending on whether a risk is self-imposed or imposed by others and who stands to gain or lose as a result of the assessment.
Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology.