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Re: risk assessment and P2

Really great question.  One place I think your question leads to is the Precautionary Principle:  " When an activity raises the threat of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not established scientifically."  (from the Wingspread Conference on Implementing the Precautionary Principle, January 1998) 

There is a comprehensive document on using the Precautionary Principle at the Science and Environmental Network website at
The website contains a lot of good information about the principle.  Perhaps most pertinent to your question would be a discussion on the relationship of the principle to risk assessment and risk management at http://www.sehn.org/pppra.html

The Precautionary Principle has been more widely adopted in Europe than in the U.S.; however, there are some U.S. governmental entities that are using it (I think mostly in specific applications rather than a comprehensive policy).

Kathy Barwick
Office of Pollution Prevention
   and Technology Development
(916) 323-9560
fax (916) 327-4494

>>> Janet Clark <clarkjan@turi.org> 12/17/01 11:35AM >>>
Hi P2techies,

I would like to ask if there is a way we can talk about how statistical
manipulation affects our work in P2. It may be that this message should be
on the P2policy list, but I think this technical list has the specific,
grounded expertise needed for these questions. I will move offlist with
this topic if asked.

Here is the question: In the battle between p2 and continued use of toxins
-- which takes place in academia, government, trade associations,
facilities and communities -- do you accept decisions largely based on
existing risk studies?  Risk analysis has not prevented alien chemicals in
our bodies, and doesn't seem to address unknowns such as hormonal,
accumulative, synergistic, immune suppressing, vulnerable population, and
second generational effects. 

P2 advocates continuous improvement, but companies move slowly and justify
this with acceptable risk numbers in their cost benefit analysis of
alternatives.  These "qualified" numbers get an undeserved life of their own. 

If you believe something is missing, should we be doing more work in
educating consumers, insurers, and other stakeholders about unknown risk to
surface a more cautious approach to decisionmaking?  Our local media is
reluctant to carry anything about P2. Is the media responsible for our
nation's less progressive perspective on toxic risk than the European
community? What are your strategies for getting news coverage?

Janet Clark <clarkjan@turi.org>
Associate Director for Information
MA Toxics Use Reduction Institute
University of Massachusetts
One University Ave.
Lowell, MA  01854-2866
Tel 978-934-3346, Fax 978-934-3050