Site cleanup decisions involve developing action levels and residual limits for key contaminants, to assure health protection during the cleanup period and into the long term. Uncertainty is inherent in the toxicity information used to define these levels, based on incomplete scientific knowledge regarding dose-response relationships across various hazards and exposures at environmentally relevant levels. This problem can be addressed by applying principles used to manage uncertainty in operations research, as illustrated by the newsboy dilemma. Each day a newsboy must balance the risk of buying more papers than he can sell against the risk of not buying enough. Setting action levels and cleanup limits involves a similar concept of balancing and distributing risks and benefits in the face of uncertainty. The newsboy approach can be applied to develop health-based target concentrations for both radiological and chemical contaminants, with stakeholder input being crucial to assessing “regret” levels. Associated tools include structured expert judgment elicitation to quantify uncertainty in the dose-response relationship, and mathematical techniques such as probabilistic inversion and iterative proportional fitting.

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