Rachel's Precaution Reporter #27

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

Wednesday, March 1, 2006.............Printer-friendly version
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Table of Contents...

Maine's Governor Baldacci Orders a New Policy for Chemicals
  Pressured by a lot of well-organized citizens, Maine's governor,
  John Baldacci, signed an executive order Feb. 22 committing state
  government to finding less-harmful alternatives to toxic chemicals for
  consumer products and services -- a precautionary approach that
  doesn't even mention precaution. More great work from activists in
  Maine! And hats off to Governor Baldacci!
Resolution for Healthy, Environmentally Sound Schools
  The Emeryville, California School District has adopted the
  precautionary principle and has spelled out what it means:
  anticipatory action to avert harm, community right to know, assessment
  of alternatives to find the least harmful way, full cost accounting to
  tally up both goods and bads, and decision-making that respects and
  involves the people affected.
Phthalate Safety Concerns Merit Substitute Products
  When do we know enough to act? For sure when less-harmful
  alternatives are readily available. In the case of DEHP (a phthalate)
  in medical devices, good alternatives are available now. As physician
  Ted Schettler says, the Food & Drug Administration should use its
  authority to meet its public trust responsibility: require labeling of
  DEHP-containing PVC medical devices and move the medical device market
  to safer alternatives by requiring substitution where suitable
  alternatives exist. This is the "substitution principle" -- an
  important part of precautionary action.
Critic Says Precaution 'Dictates' the Use of a Toxic Chemical
  Want to see a neat trick? In this op-ed, Patrick Moore argues that
  precaution 'dictates' that we continue to use a dangerous flame-
  retardant (deca-BDE) instead of searching for a less-harmful
  alternative. George Orwell would feel vindicated by Mr. Moore's
  inventive double-speak. Oh, and be sure to check out the web site
  maintained by activists who keep tabs on Mr. Moore's work.
Leaked Report: U.S. Misled the World On Biotech Foods 'Victory'
  In Rachel's Precaution Reporter #24 we reported that the World
  Trade Organization (WTO) had basically outlawed the precautionary
  principle for genetically-modified foods, forcing the European Union
  to allow the import and sale of such products. Now it seems that we
  may have been duped by U.S. spin doctors who misrepresented what the
  WTO actually said in its secret report, which has just been leaked.


From: Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine, Feb. 22, 2006
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AUGUSTA -- Maine Governor John Baldacci signed an Executive Order Feb.
22 in a Cabinet Room ceremony to promote safer chemicals in consumer
products and services.

Governor Baldacci says that the Executive Order commits the Government
of the State of Maine to phase out its use of long-lasting toxic
chemicals while making information available to the public about safer
alternatives to those chemicals.

The Executive Order further looks to the future by spelling out the
next steps that Maine will take against chemicals that have already
been identified as priorities such as mercury, lead and pesticides.

The Governor also announced the creation of a task force designed to
identify safer alternatives to hazardous chemicals and promote the
use and development of the alternatives. The task force will be made
up of representatives of environmental groups, people from the
business and labor communities, members of the University system,
state government and the general public.

"We are all at risk -- our children especially -- from hazardous
chemicals," Governor Baldacci said. "When there are toxic materials in
the house, kids will find them. I am proud that Maine is continuing to
be a leader in making this state one of the healthiest states in the

Governor Baldacci worked with the Alliance for a Clean and Healthy
Maine on the Executive Order. The Alliance is made up of
representatives from The Learning Disabilities Association of Maine;
The Maine Labor Group on Health; The Maine Environmental Health
Strategy Center; The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners
Association; The Maine People's Alliance; The Maine Public Health
Association; Maine Physicians for Social Responsibility; The
Natural Resources Council of Maine; and The Toxics Action Center.

Maine DEP secretary David Littell spoke at the signing of the
executive order.

Contact: Crystal Canney (207) 287-2531, Dan Cashman (207) 287-2531

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From: Emery Unified School District, Emeryville, California, May 2, 2005
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Resolution No. 12-2004-2005

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 food and 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;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Governing Authority of the Emery
Unified School District recognizes all the excellent work already
underway in the district, undertaken by parents, teachers,
administrators, janitors, nurses and others and recognizes 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 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: 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.

** 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.

** 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.

** FULL COST ACCOUNTING: When evaluating potential alternatives, there
is a duty to consider all the reasonably foreseeable costs, including
raw materials, manufacturing, transportation, use, cleanup, eventual
disposal, and health costs even if such costs are not reflected in the
initial price. Short and long-term benefits and time thresholds should
be considered when making decisions.

Precautionary Principle must be transparent, participatory, and
informed by the best available information.

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

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, cafeteria, 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)

APPROVED, PASSED, AND ADOPTED by the Governing Board of the Emery
Unified School District this 2nd day of May 2005.

Signed by Cheryl Webb, Board Clerk, Emery Unified School District

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From: Risk Policy Report, Feb. 28, 2006
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By Ted Schettler, MD, MPH

As evidence of the hazards of di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP)
continues to mount, the inevitable question arises, "When do we know
enough to act to protect people from unnecessary and potentially
harmful exposures?" Concerns about the safety of DEHP, a PVC
plasticizer, have intensified since it became apparent that developing
organisms are far more susceptible to DEHP exposures than adults.
Hundreds of animal studies confirm the particular vulnerability of the
developing male reproductive system and have begun to define
mechanisms of toxicity, including impaired testosterone synthesis.
Birth defects, pathologic testicular changes, decreased sperm
production, and altered hormone levels are caused by developmental
exposures to DEHP. Lowest adverse effect levels in developing
organisms are orders of magnitude lower than doses necessary to cause
reproductive system impacts in adults.

Human studies report ubiquitous DEHP exposures in the general
population, with some concluding that the reference dose is exceeded
among those who are most highly exposed. Studies of infants in
neonatal intensive care units show even higher exposure levels from
DEHP- containing medical devices. Based on animal tests, these
exposures occur during developmental windows of heightened
sensitivity. Measurements of newly identified metabolites of DEHP have
enriched our understanding of mammalian toxicokinetics and suggest
that previous estimates of DEHP exposure are too low. The first
studies of DEHP exposure effects in infants are inconclusive but

Two expert panels of the National Toxicology Program (NTP), the US
Food & Drug Administration (FDA), a Health Canada expert panel, and
the European Union have all concluded that the animal studies of DEHP
are likely to predict human health impacts and raise serious concerns.
These government-sponsored panels say health care delivery with DEHP-
containing PVC medical products can be a clinically significant source
of DEHP exposure, and infants receiving intensive medical care are
most at risk.

In 2002, FDA issued a Public Health Notification warning health care
providers to use available DEHP-free medical devices while treating
certain vulnerable patient populations, including critically ill
infants. In October 2005, a second NTP expert panel reviewed the last
several years of research findings and again expressed "serious
concern" regarding infants receiving intensive medical treatments with
DEHP-containing devices.

Recent studies of infants receiving intensive medical therapy with PVC
medical devices reported levels of DEHP metabolites in their urine
similar to those associated with adverse impacts in laboratory
animals. One of the studies also contained some good news. Comparing
infants in two Harvard-affiliated Boston Neonatal Intensive Care
Units, the study found significantly lower DEHP levels in the babies
receiving care at the hospital that had switched to DEHP-free medical
devices for some applications. Health care providers at that
institution had taken prudent action to protect their vulnerable
patients from unnecessary exposures to DEHP while continuing to
provide high-quality care.

Defenders of PVC/DEHP products cite studies in marmosets that
reportedly show no harm from DEHP exposures. Marmosets are members of
a primate species with male hormonal regulatory systems that
significantly differ from humans. For instance, testosterone levels
are normally high in marmosets, and they are relatively insensitive to
changes in steroid hormone levels, unlike humans. This is not a
trivial detail when evaluating a chemical that interferes with
testosterone synthesis. It limits the utility of marmosets as a model
for studying DEHP toxicity in humans. Moreover, no study has ever
examined the impacts of fetal or neonatal exposure to DEHP in non-
human primates.

The recent NTP expert panel also reviewed a relatively new but
unpublished, industry-sponsored marmoset study submitted by the
American Chemistry Council's Phthalate Ester Panel. The NTP panel was
unconvinced by the study authors' curious rationale for omitting from
the data analysis some animals that apparently showed significant
impacts from exposure. Subsequently, a reproductive biologist
commissioned by the Phthalate Ester Panel to review that study and
comment on the appropriateness of using marmosets as a relevant animal
model was also unable to explain why those data were omitted from the
analysis. He further commented on the study's poor design and

PVC/DEHP defenders also look for safe harbor in the lack of proof that
DEHP harms humans. Human studies will require accurate DEHP exposure
assessment in male fetuses and infants, followed by long-term follow-
up as these children enter their reproductive years in order to find a
potential relationship between early life exposures and later
reproductive function. The prospects for such a study are slim, and
the results would not be available for decades.

DEHP-free alternatives are readily available for nearly all uses in
health care. Replacing DEHP with another plasticizer in a PVC device
of course raises questions of the safety of the alternative. To be
sure, other plasticizers must also undergo rigorous scrutiny and FDA
approval. Some alternative polymers, however, such as polypropylene
and polyethylene, among others, do not require plasticizer additives
of any kind, and concern about their leaching is not an issue. A list
of PVC-free medical devices, manufacturers, and alternative materials
is available at http://www.noharm.org/us/pvcDehp/issue.

Some major health care institutions are responding to the FDA's
notification by phasing out PVC medical devices and seeking safer
alternatives -- including Kaiser Permanente, the largest non-profit
health care provider in the United States; Catholic Healthcare West,
Miller Children's Hospital, Lucille Packard NICU at Stanford
University, and many others. The largest group purchasing
organizations in the health care industry have committed to support
labeling of PVC and DEHP medical products and offer DEHP-free

In the experience of clinical practitioners, DEHP-free alternatives
have similar costs and are just as safe and effective. Valerie
Briscoe, a neonatal clinical nurse specialist at John Muir Medical
Center, a 550-bed hospital in Northern California with the busiest
birth center in its county, was able to switch her hospital's NICU to
safer non-DEHP medical devices within six months of FDA's public
health notification.

"We found alternatives that were as adequate in providing therapy with
no substantial cost impact to the hospital. This was a relatively easy
process for me," Briscoe said. "I would say that 99 percent of the
products have alternatives out there. I've been very successful in
finding alternatives."

Catholic Healthcare West (CHW), the largest Catholic health-care
system in the western United States, announced in November a five-
year, $70 million contract to B. Braun Medical Inc. for PVC-free/DEHP-
free intravenous bags, solutions and tubing.

"We have been actively advocating for PVC/DEHP-free supplies from our
vendors since 1997. B. Braun has stepped up to the challenge as the
first supplier with the capacity to deliver PVC- and DEHP-free
supplies to all 40 of our hospitals," said Lloyd H. Dean, CHW
president/chief executive officer, in a press release announcing the
contract. CHW previously contracted with the nation's largest medical
device manufacturer, Baxter International, which has yet to fulfill
its 1999 promise to shareholders to develop a fully-expanded PVC-free
product line.

Despite these promising developments, many hospitals across the
country are unaware of concerns about DEHP and continue to use PVC
medical devices, unnecessarily exposing vulnerable patients to high
levels of DEHP. Given the weight of the evidence and the availability
of safer alternatives, FDA's failure to require labeling of products
containing DEHP and to move manufacturers toward safer product
formulations is disturbing.

Because of widespread use of phthalates in a variety of consumer
products and general environmental contamination, exposures are
ubiquitous in the general population. Unfortunately, no regulatory
agency looks at total exposures from all sources when making
decisions. Phthalate-containing products are under the regulatory
authority of the Environmental Protection Agency, which regulates
industrial chemicals, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and FDA.
Even within FDA, which is responsible for food contaminants,
pharmaceutical ingredients, medical devices, and cosmetics -- each of
which may contain phthalates -- there is virtually no attempt to look
at the bigger picture. The focus is generally on one source or one
product at a time. When FDA's medical device division considers the
safety of exposures to DEHP, it considers only medical devices and not
the real world of population-wide exposures from the several million
tons of phthalates released into the environment annually.

Even within this Balkanized regulatory system, however, justification
for replacing of DEHP-containing medical products is sufficient.
Despite that justification, FDA posted its "Public Health
Notification: PVC devices containing the plasticizer DEHP" on its
website with little publicity. The agency has yet to issue a guidance
that would require labeling of DEHP-containing medical products and
responsibly move the device-manufacturing sector toward a new
generation of safer materials. As a result, even those health care
providers who are aware of the concerns surrounding DEHP are often
unable to identify potentially problematic devices in their inventory.
Informed purchasing decisions require full disclosure of product

We know enough to act. There is no longer any justification for
hospitals to continue using PVC/DEHP devices where alternatives exist,
particularly in vulnerable patients. Medical device manufacturers
should provide PVC-free/DEHP-free devices that hospitals increasingly
seek. And, FDA should use its authority to meet its public trust
responsibility: require labeling of DEHP-containing PVC medical
devices and move the medical device market to safer alternatives by
requiring substitution where suitable alternatives exist.

Ted Schettler is the Science Director of the Science and
Environmental Health Network

Copyright Inside Washington Publishers

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From: Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Feb. 24, 2006
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By Patrick Moore

[Rachel's introduction: This is crude piece of propaganda. It claims
that the flame retardant, deca-BDE ('deca' for short) is "non-toxic."
But the American Chemical Society reported in 2003 that deca is both
toxic and persistent -- a bad combination. We now know that deca
builds up in the environment and can get into humans. It is found
in breast milk at increasing concentrations. It is found in high
concentrations in household dust. It has been banned in Germany
because, when burned, it produces dioxins. These are just a few of the
reasons why regulators consider it a bad actor. Although Mr. Moore
would have you believe that environmental activists are the only ones
who want deca banned, in fact scientists for both the Washington State
Department of Ecology AND the state Department of Health have urged
legislators to ban deca. Patrick, oh Patrick, are you surprised that
your colleagues in the Northwest call you a prevaricator?]

Every year, flame retardants save hundreds of lives in the United
States, and thousands more across the globe.

Not only do flame retardants reduce the spread of fire, they reduce
the threat of ignition in the first place, and give people more time
to escape injury. They are particularly important in providing added
fire safety in schools, airplanes, automobiles and retirement homes.
One of the most common flame retardants is decabromodiphenyl ether
(Deca-BDE), which is used in flammable consumer products such as
televisions, upholstered furniture and carpets.

Despite Deca-BDE's undeniable history of saving lives, the Toxic Free
Legacy Coalition -- whose activist membership includes the
Washington Toxics Coalition -- is asking the Legislature to ban this
chemical in Washington state.

The Washington Toxics Coalition's apparent mission is to "protect
public health and the environment by eliminating toxic pollution." Yet
Deca-BDE -- the most common and rigorously-tested variety -- is non-
toxic in its application. No country in the world has banned Deca-BDE,
and there is no alternative with such a proven track record of safety
and performance.

Extensive studies in both Europe and the United States show Deca-BDE
is safe. Following a 10-year risk assessment -- which evaluated more
than 500 studies -- the European Union concluded Deca-BDE does not
pose health or environmental risks.

The active element in the most effective flame retardants, bromine, is
found widely in nature and is primarily harvested from seawater, salt
lakes and underground brine deposits. Bromine compounds are also used
in the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals, including sedatives and
antihistamines. Pharmaceuticals with bromine compounds are being
tested in the fight against Alzheimer's, cancer and AIDS. Bromine
compounds are also used in photography.

In the case of flame retardants, bromine compounds are added or
blended into materials in solid form -- not gas form -- so the
opportunity for human exposure is extremely small. As a result, where
Deca-BDE levels are detected in our environment, they are measured at
extremely low levels -- parts-per-billion, or parts-per-trillion.

Motivated by dollars rather than science, the campaign to ban flame
retardants -- particularly Deca-BDE -- would do more harm than good.
Since 2000, members of the Toxic Free Legacy Coalition have received
more than $5 million from wealthy U.S. foundations. Those funds are
being misdirected in the backing of efforts to ban Deca-BDE. The House
of Representatives already has rejected such an effort, favoring
continued study instead, and the Senate should consider the same.

As a sensible environmentalist, I believe banning flame retardants
would put the most vulnerable at risk needlessly -- young children and
the elderly -- when there is simply no evidence of human harm.
Precaution dictates we err on the side of proven fire safety.

Dr. Patrick Moore is a co-founder of Greenpeace and is chairman and
chief scientist of Greenspirit Strategies Ltd. in Vancouver, B.C.

Copyright 1998-2006 Seattle Post-Intelligencer

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From: Friends of the Earth International, Feb. 28, 2006
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WTO ruling does not prevent countries from restricting or banning GM

Brussels and Washington, D.C.-- Friends of the Earth International
made available online today a confidential World Trade Organization
ruling on the trade dispute on biotech, or genetically modified (GM)
foods. The report is in two parts, available here and here.

The 1000-page report, which was distributed earlier this month only to
the countries involved in the dispute, was leaked to Friends of the
Earth, which published today, February 28, a preliminary analysis in
the briefing 'Looking behind the US spin."

The leaked report reveals that:

Despite claims of victory by the US Administration and the
biotechnology industry -widely reported in the media in February 2006-
the three countries that started the trade dispute against the
European Union (US, Canada and Argentina) failed to win most of their

The World Trade Organization (WTO) did not rule on two of the most
important questions, namely whether GM foods are effectively the same
as non-GM foods and if they are safe.

"The WTO ruling is not a victory for the US administration and the
biotech giants. Countries around the world should continue to enforce
tough legislation protecting their citizens and the environment from
the risks of genetically modified crops," said Juan Lopez, GM Campaign
Coordinator of Friends of the Earth International.

According to Friends of the Earth International the WTO is not and
should not be the appropriate body to deal with conflicts between
trade rules and environmental protection since it ignores the
internationally recognised 'Precautionary Principle' and considers
only trade principles.

The leaked WTO report argues that:

Europe's 4-year moratorium on GM Organisms (GMOs) only broke trade
rules because it caused "undue delay" in the approval of new GM foods.
The WTO dismissed eight other complaints in relation to the
moratorium, and did not recommend any further action, since the
moratorium ended in 2004.

There was also an "undue delay" in the EU's approval procedures for
over 20 specified biotech products. However, eleven other claims of
the complainants related to the product-specific EU measures were
dismissed by the WTO Panel.

National bans by EU member states broke trade rules because the risk
assessments used by the countries in question did not comply with the
WTO requirements;

"This is the report that the WTO didn't want the public to see. It
reveals that the big corporations that stand behind the WTO failed to
get the big win they were hoping for. Free trade proponents needed a
clear victory in this dispute to be able to push governments in the EU
and the developing world to accept genetically modified food. They
failed and now is the time to build a consensus that the WTO, with its
business-only agenda, is the wrong place to decide on what people eat
and how we protect our environment," said Adrian Bebb, GMO campaigner
for Friends of the Earth Europe in Brussels.

Juan Lopez, Friends of the Earth International GM coordinator, Tel:
+34-6-25980582 (Spanish mobile number)

David Waskow, Friends of the Earth US Tel: + 1 202 492 4660
(Washington DC number)

Adrian Bebb, Friends of the Earth Europe GMO expert, Tel: +49 1609 490
1163 (German mobile number)

Common Dreams NewsCenter is a non-profit news service providing
breaking news and views for the Progressive Community.

Copyrighted 1997-2006

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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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