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					 Precautionary Principle
Decision Making in the Face of
    Scientific Uncertainty

                           Debbie Raphael
  Toxics Reduction/Green Building Program Manager
                    debbie.raphael@sfgov.org
                               (415) 355-3711
  Inspirational Legislation:
Sweden’s Chemical Products Act
A scientifically based suspicion that a
chemical may cause damage is enough
for taking regulatory actions.
The uncertainty that might
arise from the hazard of using
such a chemical shall not be
carried by the general public
but shall fall upon those who
want to market the product.
    Inspirational legislation:
           Here at home


National Environmental Protection Act
              (NEPA,1969)
False sense of security




   “If it’s legal to buy…
it must be safe to use”
   Scientific Uncertainty
        “Ignorance is Bliss”




   80,000 chemicals in commerce
Only 10% have “complete” information
        The Problem:
What we don’t know may hurt us
 The Precautionary Principle


Transforming the way we make decisions
  The Precautionary Approach
It is NOT sufficient to ask:
Is it legal?
Is it safe?



                    We also MUST ask:
                    Is it necessary?
             The Public Process
 Direction from elected officials
 18 months of public meetings
 Bay Area Working Group on
  the Precautionary Principle – NGO’s
 Input from business groups
  – Committee on Jobs, Chamber of Commerce, Labor Unions,
    American Chemistry Council

 Consultation with subject matter experts
 Moving From Theoretical Principle
        to Practical Policy
 Risk Assessment
- What is an acceptable level of harm?
  (i.e. # of cancers in 1000 people)
- Does this activity or product
  fall within that acceptable level?
- Single activity considered


 Alternatives Assessment
- Is this potentially hazardous activity (product) necessary?
- What less hazardous options are available?
- How little damage is possible?
- Multiple activities compared
The Precautionary Principle does
               not
    pre-determine an outcome




    It creates a process.
         San Francisco’s
Precautionary Principle Ordinance



 Chapter One of Environment Code – over
  arching principle.
 - For complete text see: www.sfenvironment.org

 Five Tenets Define a Mechanism for
  Implementation
San Francisco’s 5 Tenets

  Duty to take anticipatory action to
  prevent harm

  Right to know complete and
  accurate information – burden is
  on the proponent to supply it
San Francisco’s 5 Tenets
  Duty to examine a full range of
  alternatives, including doing
  nothing



   Must consider the full range of
  costs, including costs outside the
  initial price
San Francisco’s 5 Tenets


  Decisions must be transparent,
  participatory and informed by the
  best available information
Implementation:
Pressure Treated
Wood

– Arsenic is present and is leaching out (CCA)
– Known human carcinogen
– Set transparent and science-based criteria for
  comparison
– Alternatives assessment revealed less toxic
  formulations exist and meet performance needs (ACQ,
  CBA, CA) – No additional cost.


 CCA: Legal = Yes      Safe = ?   Necessary = NO
              HOWEVER:
      For saltwater applications
  Arsenic treated wood is the most
environmentally preferable formulation
       of pressure treated wood
                Pest Management




Pesticides:
    Legal = yes
    Safe = ?
    Necessary = not always
           Selection Criteria:
 Human Health          Type of Application
  – Acute                 – Broadcast
  – Chronic               – Spot Treatment
 Environmental         Mode of Application
  – Bio-accumulation      – Liquid Spray
  – Half-life             – Granules
  – Ground water          – Solid or gel baits
    contaminant         Location
 Non-Target Effects      –   Hillside
  – Wildlife              –   Aquatic
  – Bees                  –   Turf areas
  – Fish                  –   Hard surfaces
                          –   Indoor
                                Citywide use of RoundUp
                                              Citywide Use of Glyphosate (RoundUp a.i.)
                                     includes glyphosate, g-isopropylamine & g-monoammonium salts

                              4000
Pounds of active ingredient




                                     3092
                              3000



                                            1776
                              2000
                                                   1512

                                                             780                 940*
                              1000
                                                                    452   311           276
                                                                                                      264
                                                                                               132
                                 0
                                     1996   1997   1998     1999   2000   2001   2002   2003   2004   2005
                                                          * golf course rennovation
    Pest Management
 Reduced overall pesticide
  use by 79%

 Reduced toxicity of those
  pesticides still in use

 No additional costs –
  outside of time for initial
  training
      Implementation:
     Cleaning Products




           Toxic Ingredients:
Legal = Yes Safe = ? Necessary = NO
Custodial Selection Criteria

 Acute Toxicity             Eutrophication
 Carcinogens and            Aquatic
  Reproductive Toxins         Biodegradability
 Eye and Skin Irritation    Concentrate
 Skin Sensitization         Fragrances
 Skin Absorption            Prohibited Ingredients
  Potential                  Non aerosol and other
 Combustibility              packaging
 VOC Content                Training
 Aquatic Toxicity           Cost/Performance
The Precautionary Principle

≠ Zero risk      = Minimize harm
≠ Zero science   = Maximize info./science
≠ Loss of jobs   = Increase innovation
≠ Predetermined = Transparent Process
  outcome         for public decision
  (i.e. ban)      making
   Why should Cities adopt a
           policy?
 Offers a decision making process that is
  explicit about the values of:
  – Preventing harm
  – Right to know / Full Disclosure
  – Public Participation
 Expands the pool of people asking the
  question: Is it necessary?
 Strengthens the foundation of existing
  precautionary measures.
Re-defining the Central Question
for Decision Makers

          It is NOT sufficient to ask:
                           Is it legal?
                            Is it safe?

                 We also MUST ask:
                    Is it necessary?
          San Francisco’s
 Precautionary Principle Ordinance




 Chapter One of Environment Code - For
  complete text see: www.sfenvironment.org

 Debbie Raphael: debbie.raphael@sfgov.org
San Francisco’s 5 Tenets
   Duty to take   anticipatory action to
  prevent harm

   Decisions must be transparent,
  participatory and informed by the best
  available information



   Right to know complete and accurate
  information
San Francisco’s 5 Tenets
    Duty to examine a full range of
   alternatives, including doing
   nothing



    Must consider the full range of
   costs, including costs outside
   the initial price
The Precautionary Principle

≠ Zero risk      = Minimize harm
≠ Zero science   = Maximize info./science
≠ Loss of jobs   = Increase innovation
≠ Predetermined = Transparent Process
  outcome         for public decision
  (i.e. ban)      making
Re-defining the Central Question
for Decision Makers

          It is NOT sufficient to ask:
                           Is it legal?
                            Is it safe?

                 We also MUST ask:
                    Is it necessary?
Historical
Perspective
          Germany 1970’s
         Vorsorge-prinzip
 Black Forest die-off of trees
 German Government suspects acid-rain
  from coal burning power plants
 Can’t prove cause and effect
 Invokes “Vorsorge”
  (foresight) to regulate
  emissions
 Rio Earth Summit 1992
               Principle 15

 In order to protect the environment,
  the precautionary approach shall be
  widely applied by States according
  to their capabilities. Where there
  are threats of serious or irreversible
  damage, lack of full scientific certainty
  shall not be used as a reason for
  postponing cost-effective measures to
  prevent environmental degradation.
       Wingspread Conference
               1998
 Where an activity raises threats of harm to the
  environment or human health, precautionary
  measures should be taken even if some cause
  and effect relationships are not fully established
  scientifically.
 In this context the proponent of an activity,
  rather than the public bears the burden of proof.
 The process of applying the Precautionary
  Principle must be open, informed and
  democratic, and must include potentially affected
  parties. It must also involve an examination of
  the full range of alternatives, including no action.
       City of San Francisco
                2003
 Where threats of serious
  or irreversible damage to
  people or nature exist, lack of full
  scientific certainty about cause and
  effect shall not be viewed as sufficient
  reason for the City to postpone cost
  effective measures to prevent the
  degradation of the environment or
  protect the public health of its citizens.
     Mendocino County – 2006


 When it is apparent that an activity is a
  potential threat to the environment or
  human health, full scientific certainty is
  not necessary to initiate precautionary
  action. Precautionary decision-making
  is based on a thorough examination of
  alternatives, transparency, participatory
  democracy, and prevention of harm.

				
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