SEHN

Visionary Science, Ethics, Law and Action in the Public Interest

Precautionary Principle – Number 205

Bird flu, BPA, sea drilling & mining

February 2012

 

I. Pathogens, Publishing, and the Precautionary Principle 

Michael Coston, Avian Flu Diary, February 3, 2012

“I also know from my years working as a paramedic –where patient safety and the principle of Primum non nocere (“First, do no harm”) reign supreme – why the NSABB would have been hard pressed to come up with any recommendation other than the one they did. And it boils down to the Precautionary Principle.”

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II. Bisphenol A in Thermal Paper Receipts: An Opportunity for Evidence-Based Prevention

Andrea W. Schwartz, Philip J. Landrigan, Environmental Health Perspectives online, January 1, 2012

“The time to presume that chemicals are safe until they are proven beyond all doubt to cause injury to America’s children is past. While research into the effects of exposure to BPA continues, we have an opportunity to act today on the basis of the available evidence to remove BPA from thermal paper, as we strive to protect the health and future intelligence of America’s children.”

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III. Industry, environmentalist sides of outer continental shelf oil development exchange views 

Alan Bailey, Petroleum News, February 5, 2012

“Peter Van Tuyn, an attorney … who has represented conservation groups, Native Alaska groups and others in court cases relating to the regulation of the Alaska oil and gas industry, told the seminar that in his view there is still insufficient knowledge of the Chukchi and Beaufort environment to safely proceed with offshore exploration. Baseline data is needed on the life cycle of animals living in the region, with that data likely taking another five years to collect, he said. . . . Van Tuyn argued for what he calls the ‘precautionary principle’ in the permitting of industrial operations.”

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IV.  Namibia: Dreading Country’s Phosphate Dredge 

The Namibian, February 2, 2012

“This morning as I faced my usual breakfast, a plate of oats porridge, thoughts of seabed mining flooded my mind. . . . We know very little about the vast and diverse populations of microbes that thrive at the surface of and deep within the sediments of the seabed; we barely understand the roles that many of these organisms play in marine energy flow and nutrient cycling – roles which scientists now believe are essential to the stability of the planet (biologically and climatically). Yet, the EIA does not acknowledge this ignorance. It does not provide this as a valid reason – enshrined within the Precautionary Principle – to pull the plug on sediment mining off our coast.”

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V. Risk governance in an age of uncertainty

Kim Eun-Sung, Korea Times, February 16, 2012

This thoughtful article in an Asian newspaper presents the precautionary principle as one of a suite of approaches to managing uncertain risks—most of which mirror the extended precautionary approach recommended by SEHN and others.

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