Every now and then someone puts an idea into such powerful words that it shifts our ways of thinking.
Sometimes groups get together and hammer out statements that are meant to change the way people think about the world or a
particular issue. Many such statements are quickly forgotten. But some have unusual durability and influence.
Here is the Science and Environmental Health Network's collection of definitive statements on our range of issues. We - as
individuals or as an organization - have had a hand in most of them. They express the ideas and values that guide our work and that
we believe are widely shared. Use them and quote them freely.
The Wingspread Statement on the Precautionary Principle
The release and use of toxic substances, the exploitation of resources, and
physical alterations of the environment have had substantial unintended
consequences affecting human health and the environment. Some of these
concerns are high rates of learning deficiencies, asthma, cancer, birth
defects and species extinctions; along with global climate change,
stratospheric ozone depletion and worldwide contamination with toxic
substances and nuclear materials.
We believe existing environmental regulations and other decisions,
particularly those based on risk assessment, have failed to protect adequately
human health and the environment - the larger system of which humans are but a
We believe there is compelling evidence that damage to humans and the
worldwide environment is of such magnitude and seriousness that new
principles for conducting human activities are necessary.
While we realize that human activities may involve hazards, people must
proceed more carefully than has been the case in recent history.
Corporations, government entities, organizations, communities, scientists and
other individuals must adopt a precautionary approach to all human endeavors.
Therefore, it is necessary to implement the Precautionary Principle: When an
activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment,
precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect
relationships are not fully established scientifically.
In this context the proponent of an activity, rather than the public, should
bear the burden of proof.
The process of applying the Precautionary Principle must be open, informed and
democratic and must include potentially affected parties. It must also
involve an examination of the full range of alternatives, including no action.
Dr. Nicholas Ashford
Univ. of British Columbia
Chicago-Kent College of Law
Dr. Robert Costanza
Univ. of Maryland
Dr. Carl Cranor
Univ. of California, Riverside
Dr. Peter deFur
Virginia Commonwealth Univ.
Dr. Kenneth Geiser
Toxics Use Reduction Inst., Univ. of Mass., Lowell
Dr. Andrew Jordan
Centre for Social and Economic Research on the Global Environment, Univ. Of East Anglia