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Precautionary Principle – Number 196

Precaution in Action

August 2010


I.   San Francisco Issues ‘Green Approved’ List for Products and Services

By Leon Kaye, Triplepundit, August 17, 2010

"Back in 2005 San Francisco's Board of Supervisors passed legislation, The Precautionary Principle, which required its procurement officers to adhere to an approved list of environmentally preferable, or "green," products. Over the past few years, city employees vetted and tested products ranging from electronics to cleaning supplies to lighting equipment."

"The result is, a guide that describes approximately 1000 green products that San Francisco's municipal employees are allowed to buy under local ordinances."

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II. Study Finds Contaminants In SF Free Compost

CBS 5, Aug 10, 2010

"The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission quit giving away free compost it made from sewage after complaints that the 'organic' material wasn't safe".

"'The presence of something doesn't necessarily indicate a public health hazard,' said Tyrone Jue of the SFPUC."

"However, San Francisco operates under the precautionary principle, a law which says, 'lack of full scientific certainty about cause and effect shall not be viewed as sufficient reason for the city to postpone cost effective measures to...protect the health of its citizens.'"

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III.  General Rules for Membership in Sustain Local Mendocino

By Douglas A. Kysar, Yale University Press, 2010

"6. Individuals and groups in Sustain Local Mendocino must operate on the Precautionary Principle, adopted by the Mendocino County government in 2006. This principle says that the big picture must be taken into account in all decisions that affect the environment of our county, and the path chosen should be one that promotes a healthy environment for current and future generations."

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IV. Why the Harris Quarry Asphalt Plant is a bad idea

By Margot Roosevelt, Los Angeles Times, July 13, 2010

By Ron Epstein, Ukiah Blog, August 22, 2010

"If the Mendocino County Planning Commission employs the Precautionary Principle in its evaluation of the current plan for an asphalt batch plant, denial of the application is clearly the logical conclusion."

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V. ‘Tepo’ issued on Cebu coal waste

Business Mirror (Philippines), August 21, 2010

"Amandaue City environmental court has issued a Temporary Environmental Protection Order (Tepo) preventing the disposal of coal combustion waste or coal ash by power plants in Naga and Toledo cities in Cebu. . . ."

"The petition said that 'even in the absence of full scientific certainty as to how much harm coal ash affects the health of petitioners and the ecosystem, this Court is still required under the rules to exercise and adopt a precautionary attitude.'"

"As stated in the Supreme Court Rules of Procedure for Environmental Cases, the following factors may, among others, be considered in applying the precautionary principle: 1) threats to human life or health, 2) inequity to present or future generations, or 3) prejudice to the environment without legal consideration of the environmental rights of those affected."

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VI.  Reflections on the INTERPHONE Study of Cell Phones and Brain Cancer

By Joseph D. Bowman, Ph.D., CIH, NIOSH Science Blog, Centers for Disease Control, July 26, 2010

"As the only U.S. citizen who was part of INTERPHONE, I have been reflecting on its contradictory findings. After years of collaboration, why are the INTERPHONE epidemiologists now giving conflicting advice on cell phone use? What can people conclude about the safety of cell phone use? . . ."

"From a scientific viewpoint, the precautionary approach can be justified for questions of public health because the errors in a study can also obscure risks."

"[One INTERPHONE investigator] said, 'As a scientist, this is not enough [evidence] ... for causality, but an indication that, according to my judgment, it is enough in order to advise the precautionary principle.'"

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VII. Wi-Fi in Schools: Should We Apply the Precautionary Principle?

By Andrea Donsky and Randy Boyer,, Tree Hugger, August 23, 2010

"When it comes to unknown risks related to potential environmental and health hazards, many scientists recommend the precautionary principle, which generally means that if we don't know how hazardous something can be, we should limit exposure until such time that we can demonstrate that it is or isn't a hazard. We've taken that approach with cell phone use among children, but we're embracing Wi-Fi. There's no doubt Wi-Fi has the potential to allow for the most flexible use of technology in the classroom. But does a seven-year-old really need to be able to surf the net from anywhere in the school?" Read more


VIII. Broad-based issues and concepts in tourism 

By Robert Koehler, Huffington Post, July 1, 2010

Hotel Mule, July 28, 2010

This long, anonymous article on a website for tourism industry professionals is a thoughtful discussion of ethical issues in the industry—well worth reading in its entirety. (Sample: "As a sentiment, love is one of the most entrenched narratives in society because it is the foundation for trust, knowledge of the other, respect, responsibility and personal commitment, making it intimately tied to goodness. Love is said by the articles to have the ability to cut across and bind all of the various roles within the firm, while acting as a foundation for the development of formal and informal rules.") The link is to page 17, which discusses the precautionary principle.

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IX. American Chemistry Council's Request for Correction on BPA Action Plan Exceeds the Limits of the Data Quality Act

By Lena Pons, Center for Progressive Reform blog, August 6, 2010

"The American Chemistry Council (ACC), a trade association that represents chemical industry interests and is heavily connected to the plastics industry, filed a Request for Correction Monday on the EPA's Chemical Action Plan for Bisphenol A (BPA). The request, filed under a provision of the Data Quality Act (also referred to as the Information Quality Act), is truly astonishing and bears noting. In addition to standard requests that EPA statements be toned down or removed due to conflicting studies, ACC makes several requests that EPA remove statements that are included not as "knowledge such as facts or data," but policy statements that reflect EPA's intent to manage exposure to BPA. ACC requests in several places that references to a Canadian risk assessment of BPA be deleted because the Canadian assessment was informed by the precautionary principle. . . ."

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