Human Health Risk Details

Human health risks can be identified for individuals looking to improve their overall health, medical insurance, and workplace safety. There are various categories and levels of human risk that individuals and employers must assess to reveal the risk's true nature. A health risk assessment (HRA) is a standard process people use to identify and investigate a human health risk or a health hazard.

There are two types of HRAs. Individual medical assessments are usually a questionnaire to collect information on risk factors based on demographics, lifestyle, and physiological data. In the U.S., the Genetic Information Non-discrimination Act prevents any questions regarding family medical history. The purpose is to inform and provide feedback to motivate participants to change their behavior to reduce health risks.

It is an employer's responsibility to ensure that the company carries out a competent health risk assessment to identify hazards and set up control measures. In a broader sense, a company can decide to carry out a health risk assessment on a case-by-case basis. Suppose workers or community members are concerned about an activity or environmental factor affecting their health. In that case, the company or local government should take action to ensure the health and safety of all.

Human Health Risk World Example

The World Health Organization (WHO) can link environmental factors to over 25% of disease within a global scale. Exposure to toxic chemicals is a major health risk that experts can identify within their respective environments. They can then put measures of control into effect to reduce harmful effects. WHO has outlined an assessment tool that provides guidance on identifying, acquiring, and using the information needed to assess chemical hazards at local and national levels.

A team of experts, generally having science, engineering, or medical qualifications, are trained to follow each step of the procedure. To evaluate the level of human health risk, risk assessors will investigate the purpose, scope, and technical approaches that they'll use before the assessment is underway. The general inquiry begins with who is at risk and where the risk is coming from. The team then follows four basic steps:

  1. Hazard identification: This involves observing the work area and identifying possible safety risks for humans.
  2. Understand the dose-response relationship(s): This part of the study identifies the relationship between the amount of exposure and the subsequent effects. The findings are based on scientific research.
  3. Exposure assessment: This includes data collection and analysis of how much of a hazard is present over a period and identifying how many people may be affected.
  4. Characterize the risk: This step analyses the above information to support conclusions about the risk's nature and extent.

The WHO developed this toolkit (the Human Health Risk Assessment Toolkit) as a type of road map that allows people to make certain decisions regarding chemicals. It helps a team assess the scope of potential risks the chemicals pose to human health.

Types of Human Health Risks

A health risk is something that could potentially cause harm. Anything could potentially cause harm, but there are some generally accepted categories and actions that qualify as significant health risks. Health risks include:

  • Smoking
  • Illicit drug use
  • Consuming too much alcohol
  • Inadequate fruit and vegetable intake
  • Fat consumption
  • Blood pressure
  • Lack of access to healthcare
  • Lack of exercise

Difference Between a Human Health Risk and Hazard

Unlike health risks, health hazards do cause harm. Hazards create the potential for risks. For instance, a drought (a physical hazard) leads to the risk of inadequate fruit and vegetable intake (a health risk). Environmental hazards include:

  • Chemicals
  • Radiation
  • Physical (dust, heat)
  • Microbiological or biological
  • Nutritional (diet, fitness, or metabolic state)
  • Socio-Economic (access to health care)