THE PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE
by A. Richard Miller, Chairperson, Natick Cancer Study Task Force
12378 visits since 010325; last updated 0090824.

"Debating How Much Weed Killer Is Safe In Your Water Glass" (NY Times, August 22, 2009)

"EPA Standard for Fluoride in Drinking Water Not Protective" (National Academies, March 22, 2006)

"Environmental Nasty Surprises As A Window On Precautionary Thinking" (IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, Jan. 1, 2003)

Rachel's Precaution Reporter

Cancer statistics have been rising. So have crop losses to pests and disease. The fish in our lakes show rising amounts of pesticides, mercury and PCBs. And now we learn that only a small fraction of the potentially dangerous chemical compounds are tested by the U.S. government. Government regulations and self-regulated industry efforts have not succeeded in providing adequate public protection.

However, over-regulation also is a potential problem. What to do?

The Precautionary Principle is a new process (based on tried methods) to regulate the release of potentially-hazardous materials into our environment, and to guide other activities that threaten our well-being. It was adopted by the European Union in 1992. Expect increasing debate regarding its introduction into the USA.



A brief overview of the Precautionary Principle

(Courtesy of The Massachusetts Precautionary Principle Project)

The Precautionary Principle requires a fundamental change in three critical aspects of current environmental health decision-making:
(1) it switches the questions asked when making decisions under scientific uncertainty;
(2) it switches the presumptions about the harm of a particular activity, action or substance;
(3) it switches how decisions are made about risk and who is involved in the decision-making process.

First, the Precautionary Principle forces scientists and policy decision makers to begin to ask a different set of questions about activities and potential hazards. Current risk-based decision-making approaches ask questions such as:
How safe is safe?
What level of risk is acceptable?
How much contamination can a human (usually a healthy adult male) or ecosystem assimilate without showing any obvious adverse effects?

The Precautionary Principle asks a different set of questions such as:
How much contamination can be avoided while still maintaining necessary values?
What are the alternatives to this activity that achieve a desired goal (a service, product, etc.)?
Do we need this activity in the first place?
 

An overview issue of the Rachel Newsletter: "Corporate Campaign Against Precaution, September 18, 2003".
And an article about it, by Sanford Lewis: "The Precautionary Principle and Corporate Disclosure".

This debate will affect your life and those of your dear ones!  Get involved!


"Reaching Out for a Healthy Tomorrow"
A free training session: Learn how to talk about the
Campaign for Precautionary Action in Massachusetts.
Noon-5:30 PM Saturday, November 3rd, 2001
Kennedy Middle School, 165 Mill Street, Natick, Massachusetts

Keynote speaker: Sandra Steingraber, author of Living Downstream: An Ecologist Looks at Cancer and the Environment.

For more information, contact:
The Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow
(617/338-8131; info@healthytomorrow.org; www.healthytomorrow.org)



"Trade Secrets: A Moyers Report"

A major National Public Television presentation about these problems and potential solutions was first presented on Monday evening, March 26th, 2001: "Trade Secrets: A Moyers Report". PBS has a thorough Web page about it (with a transcript, and tape-ordering information), and preview articles (PBS, AlterNet) can be read online.

You can still view "Trade Secrets: A Moyers Report". See your local TV schedule for repeat airing times in your area. For Channels 2, 11 and 44 in Boston, Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire, WGBH-TV lists repeat airings online. A videotape may be borrowed locally from the Natick Cancer Study Task Force (508/653-6136, 9AM-9PM), or ordered from PBS.

"Precautionary Principle" panel discussion

Around the country, viewing parties and follow-up meetings discussed "Trade Secrets" and possible actions.

Locally, a "Precautionary Principle" panel discussion for Metrowest Boston towns was held 7:30-9PM Thursday, March 29th, 2001 in the Natick Morse Institute Public Library. It was co-sponsored by the Natick Cancer Study Task Force and the Natick Morse Institute Library. Guest speakers were Sharon Koshar, Precautionary Principle Project Coordinator for the Mass. Breast Cancer Coalition; Sanford Lewis, Esq., Strategic Counsel on Corporate Accountability; and Lee Ketelsen, New England Director of Clean Water Action. Here is the online flier for the event. backhome



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