- Copyright ©2004. The American Association of Petroleum Geologists/Division of Environmental Geosciences. All rights reserved.
This paper shows how to estimate the likely death and sickness rates caused by release of toxic material when the probability of a spill, the amount spilled, the amount transported by air or water away from the primary spill site, and the types of material spilled have uncertainties. In addition, using risk methods that include quantitative procedures for determining the relative contribution, relative importance, and relative sensitivity of the uncertainties, which of the uncertain parameters is causing the greatest degree of uncertainty in the death and sickness rates, can also be identified. This affords the reduction of uncertainty. In this way, focusing on limiting the parameters that are dominant without spending effort and money on parameters that contribute little to lessening of uncertainty of death and sickness rates is possible. In addition, synergistic effects are considered for two toxic materials combining to produce either a more virulent or benign toxic effect than the original materials. For such synergistic involvement, death and sickness rates are also quantitatively described with the dominance ordering of uncertain parameters involved in the synergism. The numerical illustrations exemplify the method for assessing the risk and uncertainty and also illustrate the use of uncertainty to more precisely determine what is necessary to ameliorate the risk to the maximum extent possible.
Ian Lerche is a professor in the Department of Geological Sciences at the University of South Carolina, Columbia. He specializes in physical and economic aspects of gas and oil exploration and has coauthored more than 18 books. He is a recipient of, among others, the Levorsen Award from AAPG, the 1991 Nordic Professor of Petroleum Geology Award, and the 1996–1997 French Academy of Science Professor of Geology Award.Heidi Foth is a professor of toxicology at the University of Halle-Wittenberg. She specializes in contaminant and toxicological problems. She sits on several national and international committees having to do with industrial, academic, and political aspects of contaminant toxicology.