Implications of the Precautionary Principle in Research and Policy-Making

Institute of Public Health, University of Southern Denmark, Odense C, Denmark.
American Journal of Industrial Medicine (Impact Factor: 1.74). 04/2004; 45(4):382-5. DOI: 10.1002/ajim.10361
Source: PubMed


The Precautionary Principle (PP) has recently been formally introduced into national and international law. The key element is the justification for acting in the face of uncertainty. The PP is thereby a tool for avoiding possible future harm associated with suspected, but not conclusive, environmental risks. Under the PP, the burden of proof is shifted from demonstrating the presence of risk to demonstrating the absence of risk and it is the responsibility of the producer of a technology to demonstrate its safety rather than the responsibility of public authorities to show harm. Past experiences show the costly consequences of disregarding early warnings about environmental hazards. Today, the need for applying the PP is even greater. New research is needed to expand current insight into disease causation, to elucidate the full scope of potential adverse implications resulting from environmental pollutants, and to identify opportunities for prevention. Research approaches should be developed and strengthened to counteract innate ideological biases and to support our confidence in applying the PP for decision-making in the public policy arena.

Download full-text


Available from: David M Ozonoff
  • Source
    • "Consideration of the possibility of harm entails following the precautionary principle (Suk and Olden 2004), an approach also recommended by the European Ramazzini Foundation of Oncology and Environmental Sciences (Grandjean et al. 2004) due to the potential for exposure to harmful chemicals present in high quantities in e-waste recycling communities (Lancet 2013). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Background: Electronic waste (e-waste) is produced in staggering quantities, estimated globally to be 41.8 million tonnes in 2014. Informal e-waste recycling is a source of much-needed income in many low- to middle-income countries. However, its handling and disposal in underdeveloped countries is often unsafe and leads to contaminated environments. Rudimentary and uncontrolled processing methods often result in substantial harmful chemical exposures among vulnerable populations, including women and children. E-waste hazards have not yet received the attention they deserve in research and public health agendas. Objectives: We provide an overview of the scale and health risks. We review international efforts concerned with environmental hazards, especially affecting children, as a preface to presenting next steps in addressing health issues stemming from the global e-waste problem. Discussion: The e-waste problem has been building for decades. The increasingly observed adverse health effects from e-waste sites calls for protecting human health and the environment from e-waste contamination. Even if e-waste exposure intervention and prevention efforts are implemented, legacy contamination will remain, necessitating increased awareness of e-waste as a major environmental health threat. Conclusion: Global, national, and local levels efforts must aim to create safe recycling operations that consider broad security issues for people who rely on e-waste processing for survival. Paramount to these efforts is reducing pregnant women and children's e-waste exposures to mitigate harmful health effects. With human environmental health in mind, novel dismantling methods and remediation technologies, and intervention practices are needed to protect communities.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2015 · Environmental Health Perspectives
  • Source
    • "The central elements of the precautionary principle can be summarized as follows (Gilbert, 2005b): Central components of the precautionary principle establish public health goals taking preventive action in the face of uncertainty shifting the burden of responsibility (proof) to the proponents of an activity exploring a wide range of alternatives to possibly harmful actions increasing public participation in decision making. Although controversial, the precautionary principle has been utilized as an important approach to risk management and decision making (Gilbert, 2005b; Goldstein, 2001; Grandjean et al., 2004; Kriebel et al., 2001; Myers and Raffensperger, 2006; Ter Meulen, 2005; Tickner, 2002). Opposing views have pointed to potentially unintended consequences of this approach to risk management in the face of uncertainty (Marchant, 2003). "

    Full-text · Chapter · Dec 2009
  • Source
    • "Previous studies documenting upstream shifts in hazardous substance control efforts, for example in response to toxics use reduction legislation, demonstrate the feasibility of this approach as well as increasing receptivity by employers [15]. Valuing of an upstream focus is further reinforced by the precautionary principle [13,14] as well as analogous principles in other aspects of public health [16]. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: This paper describes the refinement and adaptation to small business of a previously developed method for systematically prioritizing needs for intervention on hazardous substance exposures in manufacturing worksites, and evaluating intervention effectiveness. We developed a checklist containing six unique sets of yes/no variables organized in a 2 x 3 matrix of exposure potential versus exposure protection at three levels corresponding to a simplified hierarchy of controls: materials, processes, and human interface. Each of the six sets of indicator variables was reduced to a high/moderate/low rating. Ratings from the matrix were then combined to generate an exposure prevention 'Small Business Exposure Index' (SBEI) Summary score for each area. Reflecting the hierarchy of controls, material factors were weighted highest, followed by process, and then human interface. The checklist administered by an industrial hygienist during walk-through inspection (N = 149 manufacturing processes/areas in 25 small to medium-sized manufacturing worksites). One area or process per manufacturing department was assessed and rated. A second hygienist independently assessed 36 areas to evaluate inter-rater reliability. The SBEI Summary scores indicated that exposures were well controlled in the majority of areas assessed (58% with rating of 1 or 2 on a 6-point scale), that there was some room for improvement in roughly one-third of areas (31% of areas rated 3 or 4), and that roughly 10% of the areas assessed were urgently in need of intervention (rated as 5 or 6). Inter-rater reliability of EP ratings was good to excellent (e.g., for SBEI Summary scores, weighted kappa = 0.73, 95% CI 0.52-0.93). The SBEI exposure prevention rating method is suitable for use in small/medium enterprises, has good discriminatory power and reliability, offers an inexpensive method for intervention needs assessment and effectiveness evaluation, and complements quantitative exposure assessment with an upstream prevention focus.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2009 · Environmental Health
Show more