The motivation behind conducting a risk assessment

I understand the purpose of a chemical risk assessment (e.g., setting safe exposure limits). However, I am wondering, in practical terms, what (aside from regulations) causes agencies to conduct these assessments. Consumer concerns? Potential litigation? Political pressure? 
In other words, what signals do the EPA and other regulatory agencies get that convinces them to conduct an assessment?

Thank you.
Risk assessment
Alexa Jane
In general, the motivation behind risk assessments are dependent on the overall goal of an organization. Specifically for chemical risk assessments, it can be a combination of all that you mentioned but notice how it standardizes the communication for all the stakeholders involved. Inherently, having risk assessments helps develop the the language/taxonomy surrounding a topic (i.e., what is it about) and the measures used to quantify or qualify it )i.e., how does it look like?). By being clear with the what and how it looks like, It helps with making more informed decisions especially at the organizational level where various stakeholders are involved. Decisions may involve setting standards for manufacturing and fulfillment, consumer use and responsibility associated with informed use, etc. 
Amal Saad-Hussein
Through risk assessment, the negative and positive impacts of any exposure will be identified, and what is the best ways to minimize the hazardous exposure and the ways of prevention and controls.
Risk assessment could help the scientists, policymakers and even the customers to identify the how to protect them self from the hazardous effects of new pollutants, how to choice the most safer products, and how to minimize the exposure or usage of hazardous substances,
Dr Yohannes
Literalky, it is a combination of potential litigation & consumers (end-users) concern, including human & biodiversity/ecology/environmental 
The primary motivation behind conducting a risk assessment is to evaluate the potential harm that may be caused by a particular substance or activity. This assessment is conducted to identify potential hazards and assess the likelihood of harm occurring, in order to inform risk management decisions and actions. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other regulatory agencies typically conduct risk assessments when they receive information that suggests a potential risk to human health or the environment. This information may come from a variety of sources, including scientific research, industry reports, public concerns, or incidents of environmental contamination or exposure. For example, the EPA may initiate a risk assessment if there are concerns about the health effects of a particular chemical or pollutant, or if there is evidence of significant environmental contamination in a particular area. Similarly, a company may conduct a risk assessment as part of its efforts to identify and manage potential risks associated with its products or activities.
Dr Mac
Risk assessment  can be  performed for any  risk of dangerous chemicals. Specifically environmental chemicals and pollutants such as DDT,  radioactive substances, Vanadium, Uranium, Asbestos  in water, soil, plants, food or air.  A risk-based, ”farm to fork” food safety risk assessment and mitigation approaches consider the possibility of hazards being introduced during the production, processing, and consumption of meat and meat products. HACCP (Hazard Assessment and Critical Control Points) are routinely used in abattoirs  and can also be used during  milk processing  to ensure food safety. I published an article on Malaria where participatory risk assessment measures were uses to investigate how to mitigate the risk of death from malaria in children under 5 years old in South Africa. This resulted in the development of a song for preschool children that they grandmothers could teach them so  they learned how to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. I have also used participatory risk assessment for educating small scale farmers and low income communities  to  reduce the risk of zoonoses such as rabies and  othet animal /poultry diseases that threaten food safety and security

Lawrence Read Martin
EPA, FDA, ATSDR do not typically conduct chemical risk assessments unless required by regulation.  I can't think of an example where such a RA was conducted without a regulatory justification.  They are not cheap or easy, so they are not performed randomly.  Other risk assessments that evaluate potential exposure to known chemical risks, such as EPA;s recent Pebble Mine assessment are conducted to support determinations on whether to approve a permit for something - such as open pit mining; and are also routinely conducted to approve any sort of permitted pollution emissions. There is a new approach to assessments being explored at EPA to evaluate the community impacts of multiple exposures to pollutants, both regulated and non-regulated in conjunction with other non-chemical, socioeconomic stressors such as poverty and violence.  These "Cumulative Impact Assessments" are typically motivated by community/political pressure.  This approach was pioneered by California's Enviroscreen ( which is used to identify vulnerable communities in CA and to direct funding for public health and other objectives.  However, these are not strictly risk assessments.  They do not necessarily quantify hazard and exposures - the hall mark of environmental and human health risk assessment.
For regulation of pesticide technology in the United States in particular, risk assessments are required under FIFRA (Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act).  Thus, Congress has mandated EPA to ensure all pesticide product active ingredients are safe (a legal term), but safety must be decided by a risk assessment procedure that is codified in the Code of Federal Regulations (Title 40, Chapter 1 [EPA], Subchapter E [Pesticide Programs], Parts 150-180).  Simply stated, risk assessments for pesticides are required by Federal statutory law and the process is codified in administrative law.  Probabilistic risk assessments are more realistically useful than deterministic risk assessments, but the agency is still stuck mostly in the latter mode than the former.  
C. Sorrentino
Emerging science indicating potential for widespread exposure and harm
Sukamal Sarkar
Consumer preference and their safety should be the prime concern and motivation. Market demand study or feedback mechanism may be useful.  

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