Rachel's Precaution Reporter #35

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

Wednesday, April 26, 2006............Printer-friendly version
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Table of Contents...

Mendocino County Precautionary Principle Policy (Draft)
  The Board of Supervisors of Mendocino County, California has
  drafted a precautionary principle ordinance, which the Board will
  decide whether to adopt on June 27. For a bit of background, see the
  next story in this issue of Rachel's Precaution Reporter.
Mendocino County Supervisors Will Vote On a Precautionary Policy
  This note from Environmental Commons offers some background on
  the Mendocino County, California, precautionary principle ordinance,
  and urges citizens to attend the June 27 meeting in Ukiah, California
  to support a "Yes" vote on precaution by the Mendocino County Board of
IPEN Declaration for a Toxics-free Future
  POPs are persistent organic pollutants -- nasty chemicals that
  persist in the environment, enter food chains, and poison living
  things. Starting on a shoestring in 1998, the International POPs
  Elimination Network (IPEN) succeeded -- against enormous odds -- in
  getting an international treaty adopted, banning a short list of POPs,
  and the door is open to add more POPs to the list. (Naturally the U.S.
  chemical industry has refused to allow the U.S. government to ratify
  the POPs treaty.) Here is a recent statement from IPEN, describing
  what remains to be done to achieve a Toxic Free Future by 2020. Read
  carefully -- many good ideas here.


From: Mendocino County Board of Supervisors, Apr. 3, 2006
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The Board of Supervisors finds and declares that:

A. Every resident, present and future, of Mendocino County has an
equal right to a healthy and safe environment. This requires that our
air, water, earth, and food be of a sufficiently high standard that
individuals and communities can live healthy, fulfilling, and
dignified lives. The duty to enhance, protect and preserve Mendocino
County's environment, community health, and quality of life rests on
the shoulders of local government, residents, citizen groups, and
businesses alike.

B. Mendocino County and its communities have a history of making
choices based on the least environmentally harmful alternatives,
thereby challenging traditional assumptions about risk management.
Numerous protective county ordinances and policies include: 1) Barring
the aerial application of phenoxy-based herbicides; 2) Protecting
water quality by requiring an environmental impact statement when an
industrial development is proposed for siting where quality impacts
are likely; 3) Reserving adequate stream flows for protection of fish,
wildlife habitat, and other instream use; 4) Maintaining an
outstanding and award winning rural household hazardous waste program;
5) Restricting the cultivation of genetically modified crops and
livestock; and 6) Reducing pesticide applications on school

C. Historically, environmentally harmful activities have only been
stopped after they have manifested extreme environmental degradation
or major harm to people. The delay between first knowledge of harm and
appropriate action to deal with it can be measured in human lives cut
short and irreversible environmental damage.

D. The Precautionary Principle and its tenets provide overarching
guidance for the County and its individual departments to maintain and
develop policies and regulations for a healthier Mendocino County. The
Precautionary Principle will not only strengthen the foundation of
existing laws, policies and procedures but also assist in the
development of a healthy environment for current and future

E. A central element of the precautionary approach is the careful
assessment of available alternatives using the best available science.
An alternatives assessment examines a broad range of options in order
to present the public with different effects of different options
considering short-term versus long-term benefits and costs, and
evaluating and comparing the effects of each option. This reveals
options with fewer potential effects and/or greater potential benefits
to health and the natural environment. This process allows fundamental
questions to be asked: "Is the potentially harmful activity
necessary?" "What less harmful options are available?" and "How little
damage is possible?"

F. The alternatives assessment is also a public process because the
public bears the ecological and health benefits and consequences of
environmental decisions. A government's course of action is
necessarily enriched by broadly based public participation when a full
range of alternatives is considered based on input from diverse
individuals and groups. The public should be able to suggest
alternatives to be examined. For each alternative, the public should
consider both immediate and long-term benefits and consequences, as
well as possible impacts to the local economy. One of the goals of the
Precautionary Principle is to include residents as equal partners in
decisions affecting their health and environment.

G. Mendocino County looks forward to the time when the County
generates more power from local renewable resources, when building and
planning incorporates greater use of green building techniques, when
more of our waste is recycled, when our rivers and streams adequately
sustain our fisheries, when groundwater is free from contaminants, and
when our foods are cultivated using less intensive methods. The
Precautionary Principle provides guidance to help us attain these
goals as we enact laws and develop policies in such areas as
transportation, construction, land use, water, energy, health,
recreation, community relations, purchasing, agriculture, and

H. Realizing these goals and achieving a society living respectfully
within the bounds of nature will take a behavioral as well as
technological revolution. A precautionary approach to decision-making
will move Mendocino County beyond finding cures for environmental ills
to preventing the ills before they can do harm. The Mendocino County
Precautionary Principle The following shall constitute the Mendocino
County Precautionary Principle Policy. All officers, boards,
commissions, and departments of the County shall apply the
Precautionary Principle in conducting County affairs. In adopting the
Precautionary Principle policy, Mendocino County preserves the
authority to protect the safety and welfare of its residents.

The Precautionary Principle requires a thorough exploration and a
careful analysis of a wide range of alternatives. Based on the best
available science, the Precautionary Principle requires the selection
of the alternative that presents the least potential threat to human
health and the County's natural systems. Public participation and an
open and transparent decision making process are critical to finding
and selecting alternatives. 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 County to postpone cost effective measures to prevent the
degradation of the environment or protect the health of its residents.
Any gaps in scientific data uncovered by the examination of
alternatives will provide a guidepost for future research, but will
not prevent protective action from being taken by the County. As new
scientific data become available, the County will review its decisions
and make adjustments when warranted. Where there are reasonable
grounds for concern, the precautionary approach to decision- making is
meant to help reduce harm by triggering a process to select the least
potential threat. The essential elements of the Precautionary
Principle approach to decision-making include:

1. Anticipatory Action: There is a duty to take anticipatory action to
prevent harm. Government, business, and community groups, as well as
the general public, share this responsibility.

2. Right to Know: The community has a right to know complete and
accurate information on potential human health and environmental
impacts associated with the selection of products, services,
operations or plans. The burden to supply this information lies with
the proponent, not with the general public.

3. Alternatives Assessment: An obligation exists to examine a full
range of alternatives and select the alternative with the least
potential impact on human health and the environment, including the
alternative of doing nothing.

4. Full Cost Accounting: When evaluating potential alternatives, there
is a duty to consider all the reasonably foreseeable short and long-
term costs and benefits to public as well as private sectors of the
community, even if such costs are not reflected in the price. Some of
these costs and benefits may include raw materials, manufacturing,
transportation, use, cleanup, eventual disposal, labor, energy,
health, safety, and job-creation.

5. Participatory Decision-Making Process: Decisions applying the
Precautionary Principle must be transparent, participatory, and
informed by the best available information. The County will make a
reasonable effort to include the public in an appropriate manner when
making decisions that may affect the environment, health, and quality
of life.

Policy Implementation and Three-Year Review

The implementation of this policy will begin with a pilot project
utilizing two (2) County Departments to be selected by the County
Executive Office. Implementation guidelines for the precautionary
principle will be developed during this initial phase that will then
be disseminated to other county departments for use and
implementation. During this phase the participating departments will
report to the CEO on a quarterly basis as to their progress in
developing and use of precautionary principle guidelines. No later
than three years from the adoption of this policy the Executive Office
shall submit a report to the Board of Supervisors on the
implementation and results of the Precautionary Principle Policy.
Thereafter, the Executive Office will conduct and present an annual
report of the County's application of these principles and compliance
with all applicable laws and regulations. The evaluation will be
presented on a date as determined by the Chief Executive Officer.

Policy Limitation

The Board of Supervisors, in accordance with the policy implementation
requirements set forth above, directs all officers, boards,
commissions, and departments of the County to take a precautionary
approach and evaluate alternatives when making decisions that could
impact health and the environment, especially where those actions
could pose threats of serious harm or irreversible damage. This policy
does not impose on its officers and employees, an obligation for
breach of which it is liable in monetary damages to any person who
claims that such breach proximately caused injury nor may this policy
provide any basis for any other judicial relief including, but not
limited to a writ of mandamus or an injunction. In adopting this
policy, the Board of Supervisors does not intend to authorize or
require the disclosure to the public of any proprietary information
protected under the laws of the State of California.

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From: Environmental Commons, Apr. 17, 2006
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On June 27, the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors will hear and
vote on whether to adopt a Precautionary Principle Policy for the
County. The final draft is available here: MendoPrecaution.org/2

Date: Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Time: 1:30 PM
Location: Supervisors Chambers,
501 Low Gap Rd., Ukiah, CA

The Precautionary Principle has been 'in study' since October 2005.
The study process has been enlightening for all involved and many
department heads, staff, and members of the public are in favor of the
Precautionary Principle's adoption. The hearing on June 27 presents an
opportunity to voice your support for Mendocino County's first
environmental policy -- and one that states the value of public input,
transparency, full-cost accounting, and guidance towards an
alternative with the least potential impact on human health and the

What You Can Do

1. Please plan on attending the Board of Supervisors hearing on this
issue. If you cannot attend the hearing, please consider faxing or
emailing a letter of support to the Board of Supervisors, Cc:ing your
district Supervisor.

Board of Supervisors
Fax: (707) 463-4245
Email: bos@co.mendocino.ca.us

2. If you can attend the hearing on June 27th, plan on speaking in
support of the Precautionary Principle. You will be be provided 2-3
minutes or you can simply state your support for the Precautionary

3. Endorse the Precautionary Principle in Mendocino County decision-

Who Supports the Precautionary Principle?

For a list of those who have endorsed the Precautionary Principle,
please see our website, http://MendoPrecaution.org (click on list of
endorsers in left margin).

For more information:
See MendoPrecaution.org or contact: info@EnvironmentalCommons.org,
(707) 884-5002.

Britt Bailey, Director
Environmental Commons
PO Box 1135
Gualala, CA 95445
(707) 884-5002

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From: International POPS Elimination Network, Feb. 6, 2006
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IPEN Launches new Declaration for a Toxic Free Future

United Arab Emirates -- On the occasion today [Feb. 6, 2006] of the
decision by governments and stakeholders to adopt a Strategic Approach
to International Chemicals Management (SAICM), the International POPs
Elimination Network (IPEN) declares our expanded commitment to work
for and achieve by the year 2020 a Toxics-Free Future, in which all
chemicals are produced and used in ways that eliminate significant
adverse effects on human health and the environment, and where
persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and chemicals of equivalent
concern no longer pollute our local and global environments, and no
longer contaminate our communities, our food, our bodies, or the
bodies of our children and future generations.

As IPEN Participating Organizations, we declare our firm resolve to
work for and achieve a Toxics-Free Future by the year 2020 by joining
communities, workers, and other relevant civil society organizations,
and in cooperation with governments and intergovernmental
organizations, to:

1. Phase-out and ban the production and use of POPs and other
chemicals of equivalent concern, and materials, products, and
processes that generate and release POPs and other toxic byproducts,
including those that contribute to significant health effects such as
reproductive and developmental disorders (including birth defects and
neurodevelopment problems such as behavioral and intellectual
disorders), cancers, genetic mutations, and immune and endocrine

2. Promote children's health as a paramount goal, recognizing that
developing fetuses, infants, and children are uniquely vulnerable to
the harmful effects of toxic chemicals during all stages of their

3. Promote and require substitution of cleaner products, materials,
processes and practices, including clean production, clean technology
transfer, and green chemistry, that avoid generation and release of
toxic byproducts, giving priority to non-chemical alternatives
whenever feasible;

4. Identify, secure, and properly destroy obsolete stockpiles and
wastes containing POPs and other chemicals of concern by means that
ensure complete destruction (i.e., chemical transformation) and that
do not themselves generate or release toxic pollutants or otherwise
cause injury to the health, safety, or well-being of workers and
surrounding communities; clean up and remediate contaminated sites and
environmental reservoirs; take measures to prevent the future
accumulation of obsolete stockpiles of POPs and other chemicals of

5. Halt combustion and other environmentally inappropriate methods of
treating wastes and contaminated soils and sediments;

6. Ensure timely, full, and effective public participation by affected
communities, local governments, and public interest NGOs and other
civil society sectors (including the most vulnerable groups) in all
decision-making processes related to chemical safety including, but
not limited to, the implementation of internationally agreed
conventions, programs, codes of conduct, and plans of action; promote
cooperation between governments, public interest organizations,
academia, industry, and others to ensure transparent multi-stakeholder
approaches to decision-making, including through the provision of
readily-accessible information, capacity building, awareness raising,
public right-to-know, and other mechanisms essential to relevance at
the local level;

7. Provide for a just transition whenever hazardous chemicals,
polluting practices, or dirty technologies are phased out to ensure
that special attention is given to the protection of impacted workers
including women, peasants, and indigenous and other local communities,
especially those in developing countries and economies in transition;

8. Achieve fundamental reform of current national chemicals laws,
policies, and practices in all countries that is consistent with or
exceeds the standards expressed in this declaration, and that includes
provisions to, inter alia:

** Incorporate the precautionary principle into all decision-making
related to chemical safety, ensuring that preventive measures are
taken when there are reasonable grounds for concern, even when the
evidence of a causal relationship between an activity and its effects
is inconclusive;

** Implement the principle of "no data, no market" by requiring
comprehensive data, including hazard, use, and exposure data, to be
produced for all chemicals on the market and in products that is
sufficient to permit an informed evaluation of the safety of the
chemical for human health and the environment;

** Reflect considerations of intergenerational equity by taking into
account the effects of chemicals-related decisions on future
generations, noting especially that many chemicals persist in the
environment for generations, and noting also that many chemicals
disrupt the healthy development of the human embryo and fetus, damage
genetic structures, and impact reproductive outcomes;

9. Adopt and implement comprehensive right-to-know laws in all
countries, including laws establishing Pollutant Release and Transfer
Registries (PRTRs), that ensure full, free, ready, and timely public
access to information about all chemicals in commerce and in products
and wastes, including data on their intrinsic properties and their
effects on human health and the environment, information on their
safer alternatives, and information on waste transfers on- and off-
site; these laws should clearly state that any information pertinent
to the health and safety of humans and the environment may not be
regarded as confidential;

10. Implement the polluter pays principle, especially through the
establishment of accessible, affordable, and effective liability and
compensation mechanisms, to ensure that those who produce, use, and
dispose of chemicals must pay the full costs of any harms to human
health and the environment that they cause, and that victims of such
harms are quickly and fully compensated;

11. Require chemical-producing industries to bear all legitimate costs
that governments and others incur in establishing and sustaining
robust chemical safety programs; further require such industries to
contribute to mandatory, government-administered funds that pay for
the remediation and clean-up of toxic spills and chemical stockpiles
and wastes when the costs of remediation and clean-up are
unrecoverable from the persons responsible for such harms;

12. Minimize and phase-out anthropogenic sources of mercury and methyl
mercury in the environment;

13. Ensure that all governments establish and sustain effective
national integrated chemical safety programs and infrastructure,
especially governments of developing countries and countries with
economies in transition, with full cooperation and coordination by all
relevant ministries, including Environment, Health, Labor,
Agriculture, Industry, Development, Education, and others; provide new
and additional bilateral and multilateral financial assistance to help
achieve this objective;

14. Promote the integration of chemical safety considerations into the
poverty reduction strategies and development agendas of developing
countries and countries with economies in transition, with a
particular focus on vulnerable groups, including women, children, and
indigenous and other local communities;

15. Adopt a life-cycle approach for all chemicals that includes
promotion of cradle-to-cradle strategies and that considers the
impacts of chemicals at every stage in their life-cycle, including not
only the chemical itself, but also its by-products, break-down
products and reaction products; that considers these in the course of
a chemical's design, production, use, and re-use; in a chemical's
presence in products, wastes, ecosystems, and human bodies; and in the
chemical's ultimate environmental fate;

16. Promote sustainable, ecological agriculture, including organic
farming, progressive substitution of pesticides and other chemical
inputs in agriculture, community integrated pest management, agro-
ecological methods of pest control and other sustainable agriculture
techniques aimed at achieving good yields through practices that are
healthy, environmentally sustainable, and financially affordable,
especially for low-income groups, peasants and indigenous communities;

17. Substitute lower impact and integral methods of pest and vector
control to achieve effective public health practices that are
economically affordable, environmentally sound, and take into account
timely, informed community participation;

18. Reduce and aim to eliminate the generation of wastes by promoting
waste reduction at source; by changing the design, manufacture,
purchase, use, and consumption of materials and products (including
packaging) to reduce both their volume and their toxicity; and by
promoting maximum reuse and recycling of non-toxic products and

19. Acknowledge the common but differentiated responsibilities of all
governments and of industry, NGOs, labor, and other stakeholders in
view of their different contributions and vulnerabilities to global
environmental degradation and health impacts from chemicals and the
different financial and technical resources they command.

20. Encourage donor countries and donor agencies to provide new and
additional financial and technical assistance that enables developing
countries and countries with transitional economies to implement fully
all of their commitments under international chemicals and wastes
agreements and initiatives; provide additional assistance to identify
and support chemical safety initiatives at the local level;

21. Establish a chemical safety focal area within the Global
Environment Facility (GEF) with new and additional funds to encompass
not only the GEF's present POPs Operational Program, but also to
include additional operational programs that support implementation of
other chemicals conventions, as well as integrated approaches to
chemicals management called for in the SAICM;

22. Secure the ratification by all countries of the Stockholm
Convention and other chemicals and wastes agreements including the
Rotterdam Convention on Prior Informed Consent; the Basel
Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous
Wastes and Their Disposal, including its Ban Amendment; the 1996
Protocol to the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by
Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter (London Convention); the ILO
Convention 170 Concerning Safety in the Use of Chemicals at Work; and

23. Expeditiously expand the Stockholm Convention's current list of
twelve POPs to incorporate other POPs of global concern and to
establish appropriate commitments and obligations leading toward the
elimination of all chemicals that exhibit POPs characteristics;

24. Expeditiously expand the list of chemicals covered by the
Rotterdam Convention on Prior Informed Consent (PIC) to include all
chemicals and pesticides that present a hazard to human health or the
environment under their ordinary conditions of use in developing
countries or countries with economies in transition, including but not
limited to chrysotile asbestos; discourage and prohibit the export to
developing countries and economies in transition of obsolete,
polluting technologies and chemical products that are banned in the
country of origin;

25. Promote full and effective national implementation of the Globally
Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS),
with special emphasis on its implementation in chemicals-importing
countries and on the rights inherent in the GHS to prohibit the
importation of chemicals that are improperly classified or labeled.

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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.

  Peter Montague - peter@rachel.org
  Tim Montague   -   tim@rachel.org

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