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Precautionary Principle - Applications
Number 197
Sarasota, BPA, BP and more
September/October 2010

I.   Sarasota, FL precautionary principle resolution

Sarasota County, Florida, passed a resolution on September 28, 2010, advising citizens to apply the precautionary principle to pesticide use. The resolution was based on the recent President's Cancer Panel Study (see RPR 194) and the EPA announced phaseout of certain pesticides to protect children (Draft FY 2011-2015 Strategic Plan).

Thanks to Ed Rosenthal for telling RPR about this important development. Ed writes, "This is a very important matter for all of us who want to leave the planet in a reasonable condition for our grandchildren. Lets not wait any longer and HOPE no one else gets sick or unnecessarily exposed to pesticides and make positive changes where we live and our grandchildren play. We know enough to act."

Here is the full text of the resolution:

A RESOLUTION OF THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OF SARASOTA COUNTY, FLORIDA ADVISING THE CITZENS TO USE PRECAUTIONS IN USING HOUSEHOLD AND OUTDOOR CHEMICALS TO LESSEN ENVIRONMENTAL DAMAGE AND POSSIBLE EFFECTS ON HUMAN HEALTH, ESPECIALLY CHILDREN.

WHEREAS, The Sarasota County Board of Commissioners having become advised of the publication of the President’s Cancer Report has concerns relative to the health and safety of its citizens; and

WHEREAS, this concern is addressed by a recent EPA announcement that plans on reducing the concentration of targeted chemicals by a certain percent in the general population by 2015; and

WHEREAS, Sarasota citizens when implementing their choices in home and lawn pest control options should consider following the Precautionary Principle especially in chemical control options. This principle is an approach that requires minimizing or eliminating potential hazards at the onset of prescribed usage instead of the approach that determines an acceptable or unknown level of harm.

Citizens should consider the Precautionary Principle before using home and lawn chemicals when young children are present thereby eliminating a potential hazard rather than accepting a level of risk; and

WHEREAS, Sarasota County government believes that individual residents have the power to protect the health of current and future generations of Sarasota citizens and to reduce the burden of exposure to environmental home and lawn chemicals through their own actions;

NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OF SARSOTA COUNTY, FLORIDA:

Section 1. The Board of Sarasota County Commissioners recommends that citizens and consumers who want to reduce risk to environmental exposure are advised to use sustainable pest control methods that remove sources of food, water, and shelter for reduction of pests and to reduce or eliminate pest problems coupled with consideration of the Precautionary Principle if chemical control options are selected.

Section 2. The Board of Sarasota County Commissioners recommends citizens consider selecting plants that are adapted to their yards and resistant to pest problems, avoiding problematic and invasive plants, and properly installing and maintaining plants to reduce reliance on watering, fertilizer and pesticide/herbicides applications.

PASSED AND DULY ADOPTED THIS 28th DAY OF September 2010. BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OF SARASOTA COUNTY, FLORIDA



II. Searching for breast cancer culprits in chemicals
H. Darr Breiser, USA Today, October 4, 2010

"Experts disagree about how to act in the face of uncertainty. Some cancer experts, such as the American Cancer Society's Michael Thun, say it's important to make health recommendations only when doctors can be very sure about the science. . . . Other medical leaders, such as the President's Cancer Panel and the Endocrine Society, follow the 'precautionary principle,' arguing that it makes sense to reduce exposures to chemicals that appear harmful."

Read more


III.  The Dangers of a Food Chemical: New Evidence Against BPA
By John Hendel, The Atlantic, October 4, 2010

A new study by Frederick vom Saal and others concludes that the chemical can enter the human body via multiple routes and is far harder for our bodies to metabolize than previously believed. Vom Saal advocates the precautionary principle: ‘If you set the bar at proof of harm to humans, you have failed to protect the public health.’ Vom Saal supports a green chemistry solution and points to Japan, which successfully phased out BPA a decade ago with little trouble.

Read more

IV. In Feast of Data on BPA Plastic, No Final Answer
By Denise Grady, New York Times, September 6, 2010

This overview of the state of the science and debate about BPA notes: “Environmentalists think the United States should adopt the ‘precautionary principle,’ a better-safe-than-sorry approach favored in the European Union. The principle says, in essence, that if there are plausible health concerns about a chemical, even if they are not proved, people should not be exposed to it until studies show it is safe. The United States takes the opposite approach: chemicals are not banned unless there is proof of harm.” Many comments to this article endorse the precautionary principle.

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V. BP disaster a product of "regulatory blowout"
Center for Progressive Reform, September 30, 2010

The BP oil spill would have been avoided had government regulators been given resources and motivation over the years to enforce the law. To help avoid similar disasters in the future, regulators should apply the "precautionary principle" to assessing risks and needed safeguards, rather than dismissing catastrophic outcomes as too unlikely to warrant serious consideration. These are among the chief conclusions of a new report by Member Scholars of the Center for Progressive Reform.

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VI.  Riverkeeper submits comments to EPA for hydraulic fracturing study
By Craig Michaels, Don’t Frack with NY!, October 1, 2010

"The more we learn about industrial gas production, the more we are concerned about impacts to groundwater, surface water, and drinking water resources, along with threats to air quality, landscapes, and human health. Unfortunately, most states have allowed extensive fracking operations to proceed without attempting to study and/or mitigate environmental impacts, an approach that flies in the face of the Precautionary Principle. . . . Our comments urge EPA to highlight the benefits of this approach in the course of its study of hydraulic fracturing."

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VII. Can risk management and the precautionary principle work together?

Alan Randall, SEHN Networker, August/September 2010

An economist surveys the literature and lays many of the scholarly hostilities to the principle to rest. Randall defines what principles can and cannot do—a principle cannot be implemented directly but "provides a powerful argument in a particular direction" and requires laws, rules, and guidelines to implement it. He then proposes a framework for using the precautionary principle to address the main weaknesses of ordinary risk management—without replacing the current system.

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