Precautionary Principle

Yazmin Amado Vu and William M. London

in Public Health

ISBN: 9780199756797
Published online March 2013 | | DOI:
Precautionary Principle

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Precautionary actions to protect health and ensure safety have always been an important part of public health practice. When hazards are well established with scientific evidence, precautionary action is most likely to receive consensus support. But when there are significant gaps in the scientific understanding of putative hazards, precautionary regulatory policies and recommendations to consumers are often controversial. Advocates for precautionary action against speculated threats have traditionally referred to commonsensical notions such as “better to be safe than sorry” and “better to err on the side of caution.” Since the 1970s, these notions have been codified into various formulations of the “precautionary principle” and have been invoked when scientific support is lacking as justifications for restricting specific technologies and requiring warnings. The precautionary principle has been applied to biotechnology, chemical pollutants, radiation exposure, food safety, medical technologies, occupational hazards, exposure to pathogenic organisms, and other public health concerns. International, national, local, and public health organizations have formally adopted frameworks for applying the precautionary principle. This article is an introductory guide to diverse formulations, analyses, applications, controversies, and implications of the precautionary principle relevant to public health practice. It is multidisciplinary with references to the literature of philosophy, ethics, law, economics, public policy, technology, risk analysis, toxicology, and other fields as well as public health.

Article.  10093 words. 

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology

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