The Precautionary Principle
By UNESCO | 2005 (page 14, box 2)
(United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization)
When human activities may lead to morally unacceptable harm that is scientifically plausible but uncertain, actions shall be taken to avoid or diminish that harm. Morally unacceptable harm refers to harm to humans or the environment that is
• threatening to human life or health, or
• serious and effectively irreversible, or
• inequitable to present or future generations, or
• imposed without adequate consideration of the human rights of those affected.
The judgement of plausibility should be grounded in scientific analysis. Analysis should be ongoing so that chosen actions are subject to review. Uncertainty may apply to, but need not be limited to, causality or the bounds of the possible harm.
Actions are interventions that are undertaken before harm occurs that seek to avoid or diminish the harm. Actions should be chosen that are proportional to the seriousness of the potential harm, with consideration of their positive and negative consequences, and with an assessment of the moral implications of both action and inaction. The choice of action should be the result of a participatory process.
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"We believe that EPA staff and managers should be called to testify, along with members of the 1983 Surgeon Generals panel and officials of the Department of Human Services, to explain how the original recommendations of the Surgeon Generals panel were altered to allow EPA to set otherwise unjustifiable drinking water standards for fluoride."
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