Health, Science and the Precautionary Principle
InformationBruce Barrett, MD, PhD (bio)
March 8, 2007
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A 1998 Wingspread conference on the Precautionary Principle concluded that: "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."
"Threats of harm to human health" from lead in paint and gasoline were recognized as sufficient for strict regulation by many countries for about 50 years before the U.S. banned lead in paint and gasoline in the 1970s. In the interim, more than 10 million American children were exposed to hazardous lead levels now known to cause harm.
We are currently in similar positions with mercury, dioxin, and other toxins, and by analogy, may be in a similar position in regards to global warming.
Scientific certainty regarding causal pathways should not be required before protective measures can be put in place. Instead, known poisons should be recognized as threats, and appropriate protections should be mandated, as soon as reasonable likelihood of substantial harm is agreed upon by public health authorities.