Rachel's Precaution Reporter #32

"Foresight and Precaution, in the News and in the World"

Wednesday, April 5, 2006.............Printer-friendly version
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Table of Contents...

New Web Library of Precautionary Policies, Laws and Agreements
  A fabulous new web-based library of documents has just become
  available to support precautionary action -- The BE SAFE
  Precautionary Policy Clearinghouse.
The Little Green Schoolhouse Based On Precaution
  As we noted in Precaution Reporter #27, the Emeryville,
  California, School District has adopted a far-reaching policy to
  apply precaution throughout the school system. Emeryville's policies
  were based on an earlier report called The Little Green School House,
  by Josh Karliner. Your school district could take precautionary
  action, too.
Blueprint for Healthy, Environmentally Sound Schools
  Here is a sample resolution that your local school board could
  adopt to get the ball rolling toward precautionary action, to prevent
  harm to students and staff, and to improve the learning environment in
  the schools.
Celebrating Seven Years of Precaution in Los Angeles Schools
  It started with a worried Mom whose child got sprayed by accident
  with pesticides at school. Parents organized. They discovered the
  precautionary principle and decided Los Angeles schools could adopt
  it. After a long fight, in 1999 the nation's second-largest school
  district began taking a precautionary approach to pest management.
Precaution Is Needed to Prevent Genetic Contamination of Crops
  The European Union must take precautionary measures to prevent
  genetic contamination of conventional crops because Europe's farmers
  have a clear right to keep genetically modified organisms (GMO) out of
  their fields, says Friedrich Wilhelm Graefe zu Baringdorf, a member of
  the European Parliament.


From: BE SAFE, Apr. 4, 2006
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The BE SAFE Precautionary Policy Clearinghouse is a library of
documents on the web including precaution-based laws, policies, local
ordinances and industry agreements on a range of issues.

In most cases, original documents are available in the library, so you
can modify them for your local situation and your local officials
won't even have to come up with their own language.

The BE SAFE campaign is adding new policies every month, and will
soon expand the list of issue categories to include nuclear, solid
waste, pesticides, and more.

Please help build this resource by sending any new policies or
industry agreements to BE SAFE Coordinator Anne Rabe at

Here are the issue categories as of April 4, 2006:

Environmental Precaution

Genetically Modified Organisms

Hazardous Waste Transportation

Natural Resource Protection and Conservation

PVC Plastic (Polyvinyl Chloride or Vinyl)

Pollution Prevention


Toxic Chemicals

-- Chemical Regulation

-- Dioxin

-- Mercury -- Coming Soon

-- PBDE (Brominated Flame Retardants)

-- Persistent Toxic Chemicals

And here are some recent entries:

Washington State PBT Reduction Strategy

American Public Health Association Dioxin Resolution

Oakland CA City Council Dioxin Resolution

New Hampshire Dioxin Reduction Strategy

Louisville Charter for Safer Chemicals

Copenhagen Chemicals Charter

European Chemical REACH Proposal

San Francisco CA Precautionary Purchasing Law

Maine Ban on Toxic Fire Retardants

Microsoft Phases Out PVC Packaging

Hats off to Anne Rabe and the Center for Health, Environment and
Justice for making this important resource available.

Return to Table of Contents


From: www.greenschools.net, Feb. 15, 2005
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By Josh Karliner

One in five people who live in this country -- 55 million children,
teachers, administrators, nurses and janitors -- spend their days in
K-12 schools. Yet, our current school systems are threats to our
children's health, models of unsustainability, and significant
contributors to society's broader environmental and health problems.

Schools can provide a healthy environment for students and staff,
while promoting ecological sustainability, by using alternatives to
toxic chemicals, pursuing green building and maintenance practices,
changing their resource consumption patterns, serving nutritious food,
and teaching students to be stewards of their communities, the earth
and its resources.

In this report we invite you to imagine this "green" reality. We
have written it as an encouragement for all of us who interact with
schools in our personal and professional lives. It aims to develop a
positive vision of individual schools, districts, state wide
educational efforts and a nation wide US school system that is healthy
and sustainable.

This report expresses a positive vision for healthy, sustainable

Specifically, We Aim To:

** Provide a reality check, zeroing in on just how unhealthy and
unsustainable our current educational institutions are.

** Present a basis for hope and optimism, drawn from the fabulous
mosaic of possibility represented by the thousands of disparate
efforts around the country geared toward creating green and healthy

** Provide a blueprint for parents, educators, students, environmental
and health advocates, school board members, and interested community
members to collaborate on implementing this vision.

Building Blocks For The Little Green Schoolhouse

To help build the vision and organize the wonderful -- yet often
disconnected -- efforts to create green and healthy schools, we
present the metaphorical "Little Green Schoolhouse" as a framework.

The cornerstone or foundation of the building is the Precautionary
Principle -- the basis of decision-making. Flowing from this
foundation, there are four pillars that we can use to transform our
schools to healthy, sustainable, dynamic learning centers:

1. Strive for a toxics-free environment

2. Use resources sustainably

3. Create a green and healthy space

4. Teach, learn, engage!

The Foundation: The Precautionary Principle

The Precautionary Principle promotes policies and decision-making
based on the concept of "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of

Rather than waiting for crises to occur, a proactive approach to
addressing the issues of children's environmental health and the
ecological impacts of schools can be based on the Precautionary
Principle. Such an approach would:

** Take anticipatory action to prevent harm;

** Place the burden of proof on the proponent of a potentially harmful

** Examine a full range of alternatives;

** Provide relevant communities with the right to know about potential
harm; and

** Consider all the reasonably foreseeable costs of an activity.

A growing number of cities, including San Francisco, have adopted the
Precautionary Principle as guidance for a range of decisions to
promote environmental health and safety, to reduce costs, and to
promote sustainability in government practices, including switching to
non-toxic cleaners and environmentally sound purchasing.

The Los Angeles Unified School District adopted the Precautionary
Principle as the foundation for its decision to provide the safest,
least toxic approach to pest problems after children exposed to
chemical herbicides suffered serious asthma attacks.

Pillar 1: Strive To Be Toxics Free

Children are one of our most vulnerable populations when exposed to
toxic chemicals. Yet they are regularly exposed at school through the
application of pesticides and powerful cleaning agents, poor building
design and maintenance, lead paint contamination, and poor

One-half of our nation's 115,000 schools have problems linked to
indoor air quality. This can result in "sick building syndrome,"
increased absenteeism, and overall negative impacts on a child's
ability to develop and learn.

Of the 48 pesticides most commonly used in schools, the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency classifies 22 as possible or probable

Many schools -- especially in poor districts -- are sited on or near
toxic waste dumps, environmentally hazardous facilities, and other
sources of pollution. In many places school districts have no
environmental guidelines for school siting.

There are a growing number of efforts on the local, state and national
levels to address this range of issues and to make our schools
healthier places to attend and work in. Several organizations have
succeeded in winning new funds and implementing new policies that, for
instance, require schools to use "green" cleaning products, or adopt
Integrated Pest Management guidelines.

Pillar 2: Use Resources Sustainably

Schools spend a lot of money to heat and light buildings and to
purchase supplies. They can improve children's health, protect the
environment and strengthen their financial situation by implementing
alternative energy, construction and procurement policies.

Schools' energy use makes them significant contributors to air
pollution, global warming, and U.S. dependence on foreign oil. Our
K-12 schools' electricity consumption alone is equivalent to 42 days
of U.S. imports of Saudi Arabian oil.

Taxpayers spend $6 billion a year on energy for schools but could
reduce that amount by $1.5 billion through energy efficiency measures

Many schools could become independent power producers by investing in
clean renewable technologies such as solar and wind.

A growing number of districts are following "Healthy, High
Performance School Guidelines" when building or renovating. These
criteria recommend environmentally sound building materials, and the
efficient use of energy and water. Benefits include a healthier
learning and working environment for children and teachers, higher
test scores, improved attendance, reduced operating costs, and reduced
environmental impacts.

Schools are far behind many other sectors of society in recycling.
Waste from schools -- primarily food and paper -- represents about 4
percent of the municipal waste stream. Many schools do not recycle and
fewer still purchase recycled or "green" products.

For each ton of non-recycled office paper that a school district
replaces with 30 percent post-consumer content, it uses 2,400 pounds
less wood (about 7 trees), thereby helping save critical forest

As more schools purchase clean energy and recycled supplies, they can
build demand, making these "green" products more economically

Pillar 3: Create A Green and Healthy Space

There is an alarming increase in diet-related disease among school-age
children, connected, at least in part, to the quality of meals eaten
at school.

The overwhelming majority of schools allow soft drinks and junk food
to be sold on campus. The health costs of allowing junk food, fast
food, and soda vending machines at school far outweigh any financial
benefits these commercial entities provide.

Many districts and state governments have moved, or are moving, to ban
junk food, fast food and soda from public schools.

Schools can produce healthy lunches in collaboration with local or
regional small farmers via farm-to-school programs, which are
expanding across the country. These programs also allow children to
learn about nutrition and food systems.

Thousands of school garden and green schoolyard programs are thriving
across the country. Teachers successfully teach to math, science and
social studies standards, while inculcating nutrition and
environmental stewardship concepts in these gardens.

Pillar 4: Teach, Learn, Engage!

Environmental education should be a central element in any child's
education, helping children to understand and appreciate the natural
world around them and to foster critical thinking and environmental

Overall, almost two-thirds of all elementary and secondary teachers
include environment in their curriculum. Yet the subject often remains
isolated, with neither state nor federal government agencies putting
sufficient resources into environmental education or teacher training.

There is a tremendous opportunity -- a grand teachable moment -- for
children to learn about ecological sustainability, environmental
health, nutrition, personal responsibility, and leadership through
their hands-on participation in making their own schools healthier,
more efficient, sustainable, and pleasant centers for learning.

Schools can implement hands-on, place-based curricula that will teach
children how to audit, evaluate, and change their own school
environments for the better.


This report provides a series of policy recommendations and actions
for students, parents, teachers, school administrators, and school
board members, as well as for local, state and federal government

The report illustrates successful examples and points to key
organizations that provide detailed recommendations and specific
avenues for action at all levels.

The report calls for stakeholders to organize to convince local school
boards to pass Healthy and Sustainable Schools Resolutions. Such
resolutions can identify a series of specific goals and objectives for
school districts to pursue through the implementation of a concrete
action plan. (See sample resolution.)

Overall, this vision of building green and healthy schools, while
teaching engaged children rooted in their communities, may be a far
cry from today's reality. But we should not view it as impossible, and
we should not let such reality get in the way of making a better
world. Rather, building "The Little Green Schoolhouse" is a challenge
to be met.

Read the Report.

Return to Table of Contents


From: www.greenschools.net, Feb. 15, 2005
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Sample School Board Resolution

Whereas -- Schools have the potential to make positive, tangible
environmental change in the world while teaching students to be
stewards of their communities, the earth and its resources;

Whereas -- Our current school systems often suffer from inadequate
facilities that frequently use energy, water and other resources
unsustainably; use pesticides, cleaning agents and other chemicals
that pose health risks; and can result in "sick building syndrome"
from indoor air pollution and poor ventilation;

Whereas -- Many schools across the nation are sited on or near toxic
waste dumps, environmentally hazardous facilities, and other sources
of pollution;

Whereas -- Schools are important consumers of natural resources,
including energy, water, food, and paper, and generators of waste
materials, including garbage, runoff, and air emissions, which
contribute to the world's larger environmental problems like global
warming, water and air pollution, and habitat destruction.

Whereas -- Children, teachers, and staff are regularly exposed to
toxic chemicals at school, are offered poor and unhealthy food
choices, and use and manage resources unsustainably resulting in
negative impacts on their health and their ability to teach and learn.

Whereas -- This district expends considerable financial resources on
chemical pest control, cleaning supplies, energy, water, office and
school supplies, and educational activities (resolution could include
specific statistics from the district on funds spent on specific

Whereas -- This district has a considerable opportunity through its
purchasing power to improve both the environment and its financial
bottom line.

Whereas -- Many options and choices exist for schools to use natural
resources more efficiently; to reduce, reuse, and recycle; to follow
"Healthy, High Performance School Guidelines" for construction; to ban
junk foodand soda and produce healthy lunches through local farm-to-
school partnerships; to eliminate toxic chemicals; and to purchase (or
produce) clean energy and recycled paper to protect our global

Whereas -- There is a tremendous opportunity to teach children about
ecological sustainability, environmental health and nutrition; meet
math, science and social studies standards; integrate environmental
education into curricula; and support students to become leaders in
making their own school a healthier and more ecologically friendly

Whereas -- The Precautionary Principle has been adopted by a growing
number of cities, as well as the Los Angeles Unified School District
as a proactive approach to promote the safest, lowest risk way to
protect people's health, the environment, and property; Recognizing
all the excellent work already underway in the district in X, Y and Z,
undertaken by parents, teachers, administrators, janitors, nurses and

Recognizing that this framework creates a long-term, inspiring vision
that integrates and strengthens many efforts in our district.

Further recognizing that fully implementing this resolution will take
time, and must be achieved in stages.

Be it resolved that to promote healthier, more environmentally
sustainable schools and teach environmental leadership, the School
Board hereby:

1. Adopts the Precautionary Principle as the foundation for its
environmental policy. The Precautionary Principle includes the
following elements: *Anticipatory Action; Right to Know; Alternatives
Assessment; Full-Cost Accounting; Participatory Decision Process [see:
City of San Francisco, Precautionary Principle Ordinance]

2. Calls on the district to develop an action plan to implement a
proactive environmental policy based on the Precautionary
Principlethat includes the following to be prioritized and implemented
step by step:

2.1 The development and adoption of an Integrated Pest Management
program and other policies to minimize or eliminate the use of
hazardous pesticides and herbicides in schools.

2.2 An audit of cleaning materials used in district schools and the
development of a plan to use the least toxic substances.

2.3 Mechanisms to ensure that new schools are not sited near or on
environmental health hazards.

2.4 A program to ensure that new schools are built and existing
schools refurbished following Healthy, High Performance school
building criteria that mandate the use of environmentally sound
building material, efficient use of energy, water and other resources,
and the creation of a healthy learning environment for children.

2.5 A district-wide plan to improve the energy efficiency of schools,
to increasingly rely on clean, renewable energy sources to power the
district's facilities, and to ultimately transform schools into
independent power producers by investing in clean renewable
technologies such as solar and wind.

2.6 The creation of district-wide recycling and composting programs,
along with the procurement of recycled office and classroom supplies.

2.7 Follow and build upon the examples of New York City, Chicago,
Nashville, San Francisco and others and ban soda, candy, junk food and
fast food from all school grounds.

2.8 Evaluate the district's school lunch program to ensure good
nutrition and consider developing a farm-to-school program.

2.9 Encourage the development of school gardens and green schoolyards
as hands-on learning tools that promote good nutrition, stewardship of
the land, and that teach to standards.

2.10 Adopt frameworks that meet state standards and integrate
environmental education and student participation into school-wide
environmental initiatives, using partnerships with environmental
education providers (non-profit and public agencies).

Source: "The Little Green Schoolhouse: Thinking Big About Ecological
Sustainability, Children's Environmental Health and K-12 Education in
the United States.." www.greenschools.net

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From: San Francisco Independent Media Center, Apr. 3, 2006
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The Precautionary Principle and Parents' Right-to-Know

Los Angeles Unified School District Shares Its Secret of Success

By Robina Suwol**

Toluca Lake, Calif. -- Last week in Los Angeles environmentalists,
parents, health advocates, and educators met before the Los Angeles
Unified School Board to praise the efforts of the 2nd largest school
district in the nation for working cooperatively with California Safe
Schools (CSS), a children's environmental health organization, in
creating the most protective pesticide policy for schools in the

The week long tribute to the policy ended on Saturday as
parents,students, and community members, some coming from as far away
as Sacramento, were treated to an innovative and interactive IPM
Workshop at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Speakers included
Caltech Microbiologist, Mitzi Shpak, Robert Hamm, Deputy Director of
Los Angeles Unified Maintenance Operations, and Robina Suwol,
Executive Director of California Safe Schools

The Integrated Pest Management Program (IPM) began after children
were inadvertently sprayed with an herbicide at Sherman Oaks
Elementary School in 1998. The sustained success of this program is a
point of pride for students, parents, and school administrators alike,
all of whom worked together to implement the reform.

"Creating the first policy in the United States that embraced the
Precautionary Principle and Parents Right to Know was groundbreaking.
To see it so beautifully implemented and sustained is deeply
gratifying," said Robina Suwol, founder and Executive Director of CSS.

IPM requires the use of methods to control pests and weeds that pose
the lowest risk to human health. Because children are more sensitive
to chemical exposures than are adults, IPM in schools is considered to
be especially important to protect kids' health. The "precautionary
principle," is the idea that if the consequences of an action are
unknown, but are judged to have some potential for major or
irreversible negative consequences, then it is better to avoid that
action. Parents Right to Know, is the value that parents should be
informed of any exposure to toxins their children may face while in
the care of school administrators.

Dr. Cathie-Ann Lippman, a Beverly Hills physician who is actively
involved with the implementation of the innovative pesticide policy
congratulated the School Board, "Thank you for the courage to create
this opportunity to improve the health of our community. With this
common focus, working together, anything is possible -- including
providing a healthy learning environment for our children, their
children, and generations to come."

California Safe Schools is the only non-profit organization
exclusively dedicated to protecting school children from pesticides in
California. A coalition of more than fifty organizations and many
individuals, CSS lead a successful campaign to implement the safest
pesticide policy ever adopted in the United States protecting 800,000
children in the nation's second-largest school district.

Gloria Simosky, Florence Avenue Teacher added, "As the teacher
representative on the IPM Team, I appreciate IPM's focus on reducing
and eliminating toxic chemicals from the school site. IPM is a
wonderful program that works to support the health of students and
teachers. "

This policy has become a national model for schools and communities. A
year after its policy breakthrough, CSS provided testimony and support
for the California Healthy Schools Act 2000. This state law provided
for education to schools by the Department of Pesticide Regulation for
Integrated Pest Management (IPM), a "least-toxic" pest control policy,
and Right to Know about pesticide exposure for every parent whose
child attends public school K -- 12. Most recently, CSS successfully
shepherded the passage of AB 405 (Montanez), which forbids the use
of experimental pesticides on all California k-12 public school

Robina Suwol schoolipm@yahoo.com 818-785-5515
Box 2756
Toluca Lake, California 91610

Copyright 2000-2006 San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center

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From: Parliament Magazine, Apr. 3, 2006
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By Friedrich Wilhelm Graefe zu Baringdorf, MEP

European farmers and consumers widely refuse genetically modified
plants in their fields and on their tables.

Agriculture and rural development commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel is
aware of this. She stated in a recent interview that she would never
force farmers to grow GMOs.

The [European] commission and member states must indeed guarantee
farmers and consumers the freedom of choice. Therefore, they need
rules that guarantee GMO free agriculture and food in Europe.

However, the authorized use of GM technology in agriculture
deliberately exposes farmers and processors to the risk of crop and
food contamination via pollination, harvesting machinery, transport
and processing.

To date, there is no legislation in place regulating precautionary
measures or liability for this loss of choice. There is only EU law on
labelling the presence of GMOs in food.

Coexistence rules have only been set up in four EU member states.

Commissioner Fischer Boel tells us that because of a lack of practical
experience, we cannot yet assess the full effectiveness and economic
impact of these rules. She is right.

But it is exactly this lack of experience that is the main reason why
we have to be tough on coexistence rules.

We cannot measure the ecological, economic and even health
consequences of the release of GMOs into the environment and we must
therefore guarantee that contamination does not take place where
people reject their use

In many countries like the US, Brazil and Argentina, where GMOs are
fully authorised, coexistence has not worked.

Organic farmers have lost their certification, their markets and
consumer trust. These farmers have strongly advised their European
colleagues to insist on the precautionary principle. And on strict
liability rules, which will force farmers to think twice before using

There is no right to contaminate, but there is a right to stay GM free
in conventional and organic farming.

It is not too late to prevent ecological and economic damage; it is
now time for the commission to get its act together.

We need a European framework law on prevention of contamination and on
strict liability rules.

Article 26a in the EU directive on the deliberate release of
genetically modified organisms allows member states to take
appropriate measures to avoid the unintended presence of GM in food

Member states must use this right and the Commission must take its
responsibilities seriously and allow member states to take measures
that guarantee their freedom of choice.

Under certain conditions, this clearly includes the right to prohibit
the release of GMOs into the environment within a region.

This article was originally published in the April 3 edition of the
Parliament Magazine.

Copyright 2006 EUpolitix.com

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  Rachel's Precaution Reporter offers news, views and practical
  examples of the Precautionary Principle, or Foresight Principle, in
  action. The Precautionary Principle is a modern way of making
  decisions, to minimize harm. Rachel's Precaution Reporter tries to
  answer such questions as, Why do we need the precautionary
  principle? Who is using precaution? Who is opposing precaution?

  We often include attacks on the precautionary principle because we  
  believe it is essential for advocates of precaution to know what
  their adversaries are saying, just as abolitionists in 1830 needed
  to know the arguments used by slaveholders.

  Rachel's Precaution Reporter is published as often as necessary to
  provide readers with up-to-date coverage of the subject.

  As you come across stories that illustrate the precautionary 
  principle -- or the need for the precautionary principle -- 
  please Email them to us at rpr@rachel.org.

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