Rachel's Precaution Reporter #49
Wednesday, August 2, 2006

From: Rachel's Precaution Reporter #49 ...................[This story printer-friendly]
August 2, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: In 2004, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico passed an exemplary law embodying the precautionary principle. Law 416 shows how precaution can go beyond narrow uses, such as municipal purchasing policies and control of pesticides, to embody a rich, well- rounded philosophy for conducting human affairs in a respectful manner.]

By Peter Montague

On Sept. 22, 2004, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico adopted the precautionary principle in Law 416, which is Section 4 of the Environmental Public Policy Act. The law requires all govermnental entities in Puerto Rico to use the precautionary principle in decision-making.

Law 416 originated with a young lawyer, Esteban Mujica-Cotto, who was then the head of Puerto Rico's Environmental Quality Board. Mr. Mujica-Cotto is now active with the Coalicion para el Desarrollo Sostenible, Inc. (Coalition for Sustainable Development).

From our web site, you can retrieve the full 87-page text of Law 416 in Spanish (10 megabytes PDF), or just the first 5 articles of the law in Spanish or English.

We asked Carolyn Raffensperger, a lawyer and the world's leading advocate for the precautionary principle, to give us her assessment of Puerto Rico's Law 416. Here is what she told us:

1) Law 416 is quite wonderful. It embodies a fully modern version of precaution, including reversing the burden of proof (this appears twice -- actual reversal and polluter pays), alternatives assessment, and democratic decision-making. It asserts a responsbility to future generations. Note that it blends the Wingspread Statement and Principle 15 of the Rio Declaration. It uses the democracy language and the other how-to steps from the Wingspread statement, combined with the Rio definition of precaution.

2) In spite of its anthropocentric language, it specifies the necessary science as a) interdisciplinary and b) ecological. This is refreshing, not to rely only on toxicology.

3) It includes the notion of restoration as well as preventing harm and eliminating harm. These are three strong concepts. It's not just preventing but also eliminating the harms we already have and restoring the environment.

4) It identifies multiple sources of harm, including human population and technological advances, not merely toxic chemicals. The implication is that population and advanced technologies both have the potential to disrupt the harmony between humans and the environment. So perhaps Puerto Rico and Europe are going to be the leading jurisdictions paying attention to new developments such as nanotechnology!

5) It recognizes the right to enjoy (and to some extent the obligation to maintain) a healthy environment.

6) It specifies cultural and aesthetic values -- not just the scientifically established toxicological values (e.g. it goes way beyond "let's not poison people"). This means that people can be clear about what they love. This enlivens the democracy clause.

7) The progress desired under the goals is SOCIAL progress. The economic driver is employment -- not just making corporations rich.

8) It requires the long view, as well as the short term perspective. This reinforces the obligation to future generations.

9) It situates Puerto Rico within the larger world. The language "to maximize international cooperation by anticipating and avoiding the deterioration of the quality of the worldwide environment" is wonderful. Can you imagine all 50 states adopting that language and then acting on policies to mazimize international cooperation to anticipate and avoid deterioration?

10) And it drills down to the smaller political entities -- municipalities, institutions and individuals -- embedding precaution in the smallest units of action.

Like California's Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA), the city and county of San Francisco, and other early adopters of the precautionary principle, Puerto Rico must now fully implement the principle -- and that's the hard part.

If Puerto Rico takes this law seriously, it will become a world leader in environmental protection. We are eagerly watching their next steps. All together, Puerto Rico has written and adopted an exemplary set of far-reaching principles embodied in the precautionary approach, Raffensperger said.


From: BE SAFE Campaign for Precaution ....................[This story printer-friendly]
July 26, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: The Lowell Center for Sustainable Production at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, has a new project and web site to help us all create a common agenda for getting to the kind of world we want. It's called Toward Tomorrow.]

By Anne Rabe

Toward Tomorrow -- Creating A Vision Of A Sustainable Future

This is an exciting new project from Lowell Center for Sustainable Production. For many years in the U.S., scientists, advocates, and policymakers have largely reacted to immediate health and ecosystem threats without a clear vision or corresponding set of future goals. As a result, the debate about links between health and environment have focused on which materials and substances cause which problems, rather than a discussion about what kind of world we want to live in and how we want to get there. This failure to articulate a vision has contributed to perceptions that the environmental and health movements are thoughtlessly oppositional, and impede technological and economic development.

The overall purpose of Toward Tomorrow is to provide inspiration and tools that enable a wide range of organizations to envision a sustainable future and take effective steps towards it.

The initiative seeks to develop an agenda for action on health and the environment by bringing together leaders and scholars from diverse fields. We aim to identify goals that will guide the next generation as they address the complex linkages between human and ecosystem health: linkages critical for the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of global health threats. Toward Tomorrow is predicated on the belief that scientists, government officials, and community, health, environment and business leaders can find common cause in recognizing human consumption and production as sources of both problems and solutions. For more information, visit www.towardtomorrow.org.


From: The David Suzuki Foundation ........................[This story printer-friendly]
July 7, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: The Canadian Minister of Health must now initiate a special review of any pesticide that contains active ingredients that have been banned by other member nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) due to health or environmental concerns. During the special review, the burden is on pesticide manufacturers to provide evidence that their products are not harmful.]

By David Suzuki

I have good news and I have bad news. So let's start with the good.

Last week, a long-awaited (since 2002!) piece of federal legislation came into force [in Canada] -- the Pest Control Products Act. It's a boring name for a vitally important tool to help protect farm workers, gardeners and other Canadians across the country from hazardous pesticides.

Unlike some legislation that sounds good on paper, but is rendered ineffective due to political loopholes (the Species At Risk Act comes to mind), this legislation looks like it should do exactly as it was intended -- help keep some of the worst poisons out of our food chain, our water supplies and our bodies.

According to the new Act, the federal Minister of Health is now obliged to initiate a special review of pesticides that contain active ingredients which have been banned by other member nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) due to health or environmental concerns. Once the Minister initiates a review, the onus is on pesticide manufacturers to provide evidence that their products are not harmful.

This makes perfect sense. If other countries have found these substances to be harmful enough to ban them, then it should be up to their manufacturers to provide strong evidence to the contrary if they are to be allowed in Canada. Anything less would be to treat Canadians like second-class citizens.So far, so good. But here's the bad news: according to a recent review of the chemicals found in pesticides sold in Canada, a whopping 61 of them are already banned in other industrialized countries. Thus, while other jurisdictions have seen fit to guard their citizens from these chemicals, Canadians have been given no such protection.

Many of these chemicals are still sold widely in our country. For example, two of the top-five pesticides used in Ontario in 2003 contain atrazine and 1,3-dichloropropene -- chemicals banned in OECD countries like Germany and Sweden. Atrazine is a hormone-mimic, meaning it can disrupt hormone levels, impair reproduction and cause developmental defects, while 1,3-dichloropropene is highly toxic to the liver and kidneys and is classified as a possible human carcinogen.

Pesticide manufacturers have often fought regulation on the grounds that there is often no "conclusive" proof that their products harm human or environmental health. But when it comes to human health, surely extensive evidence should be enough. And the evidence is indeed extensive. According to a recent paper published in the Annals of Neurology, for example, exposure to pesticides -- even at low levels - can increase a person's risk of developing Parkinson's disease by 70 per cent.

Another point to remember is that pesticide manufacturers are already getting away with a loophole. Instead of testing pesticides in the form they are sprayed on fields and gardens, only their "active ingredients" are required to be tested. Yet studies have found that pesticides often contain other agents to enhance the effectiveness of the active ingredient, making the actual end product much more dangerous.

For too long Canada has let its environmental and health regulations slide. Frankly, it's embarrassing and unbecoming of a country that prides itself on being a leader in these fields. With the new Act coming into force, we have an opportunity to catch up -- at least in this area.

It's now up to Health Minister Tony Clement to decide what to do. According to the new Act, he's obliged to call for a special review of all 61 pesticides, but politicians are notoriously skilled at finding ways to shirk their duties. Let's hope Mr. Clement lives up to his and makes a decision to protect the health and well being of all Canadians.


From: Israel Ministry of the Environment .................[This story printer-friendly]
July 30, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: "Taking consideration of conditions in Israel, the existence of alternatives for most of these product uses and on the basis of the precautionary principle, a decision was taken to stop the marketing of pest control products for sanitation which contain these two substances [chlorpyrifos and diazinon] beginning on December 31, 2007."]

The Ministry of Environmental Protection [of Israel] has decided to ban the use of pest control products containing the organophosphates chlorypyrifos and diazinon beginning on December 31, 2007. This is in light of their ban in the US and the growing body of evidence concerning the risk factors associated with these organophosphates.

In the past, these substances were permitted for use taking into account toxicity risks, largely tested on the basis of acetylcholinesterase inhibition. In recent years a growing body of evidence has accumulated regarding previously unknown risks from these substances. A risk assessment conducted by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which led to banning the use of these products in the U.S., and additional updated toxicological data, point to the rise of developmental neurotoxicity in embryos and infants associated with the exposure of pregnant women and babies to chlorypyrifos and diazinon.

Based on the findings, a decision was taken to adopt the rationale behind the EPA action and to initiate the banning of these substances for home use in Israel. Taking consideration of conditions in Israel, the existence of alternatives for most of these product uses and on the basis of the precautionary principle, a decision was taken to stop the marketing of pest control products for sanitation which contain these two substances beginning on December 31 2007.

Files for download:

On the Issue of the U.S. EPA Restrictions for Chlorpyrifos Use in Homes and the Ensuing Proposed Adoption of this Policy in Israel 344K PDF


From: Europa.com ..........................................[This story printer-friendly]
July 20, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: The European Commission -- the environmental agency of the European Union -- on July 20 banned 22 hair dye substances to increase consumer safety.]

In order to ensure safety of hair dye products for consumers the European Commission has banned 22 hair dye substances (see list below).Today's ban concerns 22 hair dye substances for which industry has not submitted any safety files at all. The Scientific Committee advising the Commission had recommended the ban of these substances following the conclusions of a scientific study that the long term use of certain hair dyes bears a potential risk of bladder cancer. Today's ban is a first step in an overall strategy, agreed with Member States and stakeholders in April 2003, to establish a positive list of hair dye substances which are considered safe for human health. The ban will enter into force on 1 December 2006. In addition, the cosmetics industry submitted 115 safety files on hair dye substances for evaluation by the EU's Scientific Committee on Consumer Products (SCCP).

European Commission Vice-President Gunter Verheugen, responsible for enterprise and industry policy, said: "Substances for which there is no proof that they are safe will disappear from the market. Our high safety standards do not only protect EU consumers, they also give legal certainty to European cosmetics industry."

The Commission's strategy to ensure the safety of hair dye products foresees to ban all permanent and non-permanent hair dyes for which industry has not submitted any safety files and those for which the SCCP has given a negative opinion.

In a public consultation, the Commission had asked producers to provide safety files for their substances. These files, based on scientific expertise, have to prove that a substance does not pose a health risk for consumers.

Subsequently, the cosmetics industry submitted, by the end of last year, 115 files on hair dye substances for evaluation by the EU's Scientific Committee on Consumer Products (SCCP). The scientific committee will adopt final opinions in a step by step approach (next opinions will be emitted in October 2006). The Commission will then act accordingly.

Today's ban concerns 22 hair dye substances for which industry has not submitted any safety files at all. This ban has also been notified under the TBT (Technical Barriers to Trade) procedure to the WTO. Since no comments were received following this notification, it can be assumed that the ban will not significantly impact the competitiveness of the hair dye manufacturers.

Presently, the safety of the before mentioned 115 hair dye substances is being assessed by the SCCP whose final opinions will serve the Commission as a basis to take further decisions on their regulation.


The hair dye market in the EU was € 2.6 billion in 2004 which accounts for some 8% of the value of output of the cosmetics industry in Europe.

Permanent hair dyes account for 70-80% of the colouring product market in Europe. More than 60% of women colour their hair, 5-10% of men, the average frequency of use is 6-8 times per year.

In its opinion of 12 June 2001 the SCCP concluded that the potential risks of the use of certain, permanent hair dyes are of concern. In a second opinion of 17 December 2002, the SCCP stated that there is epidemiological evidence to indicate that the regular and long term use of hair dyes by women may be associated with the development of bladder cancer. It recommended an overall safety assessment strategy for hair dyes including the requirements for testing hair dye cosmetic ingredients for their potential genotoxicity or mutagenicity.

Following the opinions of the SCCP, the Commission together with Member States and stakeholders agreed on an overall strategy to regulate hair dyes within Directive 76/768/EEC. The main element of this strategy is a tiered, modulated approach requiring industry to submit safety files on hair dyes by certain deadlines to be evaluated by the SCCP.

Link to Hair Dye Strategy: http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/cosme tics/doc/hairdyestrategyinternet.pdf

Link to Notes of Guidance for the Testing of Cosmetic Ingredients and their Safety Evaluation: http://ec.europa.eu/health/ph_risk/commit tees/sccp/documents/out242_en.pdf

The following substances will be banned:

Chemical name

6-Methoxy-2,3-Pyridinediamine and its HCl salt





4,5-Diamino-1-Methylpyrazole and its HCl salt

4,5-Diamino-1-((4-Chlorophenyl)Methyl)-1H-Pyrazole Sulfate



4-Methoxytoluene-2,5-Diamine and its HCl salt

5-Amino-4-Fluoro-2-Methylphenol Sulfate


N,N-Dimethyl-2,6-Pyridinediamine and its HCl salt


N-(2-Methoxyethyl)-p-phenylenediamine and its HCl salt

2,4-Diamino-5-methylphenetol and its HCl salt


3,4-Diaminobenzoic acid

2-Aminomethyl-p-aminophenol and its HCl salt

Solvent Red 1 (CI 12150)

Acid Orange 24 (CI 20170)

Acid Red 73 (CI 27290)


From: The Treasury of New Zealand ........................[This story printer-friendly]
July 28, 2006


Policy Perspectives Paper 06/06

[Rachel's introduction: In New Zealand, the Treasury has issued a report arguing that the precautionary principle needs to be implemented carefully, to get the most benefits while minimizing economic disruptions.]

By Linda Cameron


This paper, published by the Treasury of New Zealand, assesses whether a more generic and consistent approach is required to environmental risk management in New Zealand.

The precautionary principle has been developed as a means of avoiding danger to human health and the environment in situations where there is a high degree of uncertainty and the effects of policy decisions are possibly irreversible. The definition most widely quoted is from the 1992 Rio Declaration, which states that: "where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific evidence shall not be used as reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation".

There has been rapid growth in the adoption of the precautionary principle in international agreements and the laws of many countries, including New Zealand (for matters such as hazardous substances and new organisms, biosecurity and fisheries). However, it remains highly controversial. Variations in how the precautionary principle is interpreted and applied can create problems, including the potential for significant costs to society through stifling economic development and technological innovation. The principle offers little guidance for regulatory policy.

The precautionary principle needs to be considered in the context of a more generic risk management framework, with clear guidelines that provide a systematic approach to setting the best course of action under uncertainty. Such an approach could assist in determining when and how the principle should be applied to manage risk and uncertainty while minimising potential economic costs. A key benefit is that it could support activities that foster development and innovation (that may not proceed otherwise), through focusing on alternative ways of implementing the precautionary principle, while still aiming to minimise or mitigate risks. This could enable the greatest returns to be achieved with acceptable results, costs and risks.

Currently in New Zealand, the precautionary principle is not being applied in the context of an integrated risk management framework (unlike in the European Union, the United States and Canada). There is also a lack of guidelines on implementation. Clear guidelines could help ensure a more consistent and subtle approach that explores a wider range of options.

Draft guidelines developed in Canada could be relevant to New Zealand and would be the most applicable from an operational perspective. Key benefits include: a more participatory approach and increased consistency with international commitments and across domestic legislation and regulatory regimes. Possible limitations include the potential cost of participatory processes and successful implementation being highly dependent on support from government agencies. Implementation issues would require further exploration.

This working paper is available to view or download in Adobe PDF format: tpp06-06.pdf (157 KB)

Copyright Crown Copyright. The Treasury, 1 The Terrace, PO Box 3724, Wellington, NEW ZEALAND.

Tel: +64 4 472 2733. Fax: +64 4 473 0982. Email: Treasury Webmaster.


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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