Industry Memo Attacks Environmental Health Regulations
This November, a memo was submitted to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger by the Thursday Group, an organization representing a broad range of industrial interests. Not surprisingly, the document urges the administration to keep public health and environmental concerns at bay by supporting Clean Air Act rollbacks, waiving public health data submission requirements on pesticides, and reconsidering radioactive waste disposal sites such as Ward Valley.
Central to this list of recommendations is an attack on the precautionary principle. Opponents argue that the principle is nothing more than a conceptual framework bereft of scientific meaning that “can adversely impact all sectors of society by depriving them of meaningful benefits to human health, environmental quality, and improvements in the quality of life.”
Yet health advocates resoundingly encourage the new administration to take a precautionary approach to protecting
public health. The precautionary principle is an important tool for making science-based, health-protective environmental policy decisions. The principle recommends taking anticipatory action when an activity raises a credible threat of harm to prevent injury to human health and the environment. This policy paradigm recognizes the serious scientific and political limitations of risk assessment, and acknowledges the need for taking action even in the face of scientific uncertainty. It calls for democratic participation in decisions from all affected parties and a full exploration of alternatives.
Real alternatives assessment ensures that lower-risk alternatives are examined and that the discussion about risks and benefits is balanced with the need to protect public health. For example, California recently enacted legislation
that bans two types of chemicals that have been accumulating in breast milk at an exponential rate. The chemicals, polybrominated diphenyl ethers or PBDEs, interfere with thyroid function in lab experiments at levels below those detected in human beings. Therefore, the state decided to take precautionary action and phase out two PBDEs in the interest of public health. Less-toxic alternatives to PBDEs will be used instead, as is the practice in European countries that have banned the chemicals due to similar concerns. Policies such as these run contrary
to industrys belief that precautionary action is detrimental to health and the environment.
Please take action and let the Schwarzenegger Administration know that health advocates support the precautionary
principle and would like it to be used more broadly in public policy formation.
Please contact Terry Tamminan at (916) 323-2514; [email protected]; Cal/EPA, 1001 I Street, P.O. Box 2815, Sacramento, CA 98512-2815.