|What is an INDUSTRIAL HYGIENIST (I.H.)?
Many, many millennia ago, mankind realized the importance of
'medicine men' to help heal the body after an accident or malady. This
was the first form of medicine but was very primitive and frequently failed.
Centuries later,after they discovered and developed a much better
understanding of the human body & some common illnesses, they started
evolving into what we know today as Physicians. They were called upon to
treat recognizable medical problems after the fact, usually with limited
success and significant patient cost in money & suffering.
About 150 years ago, it was realized that Physicians could treat
certain kinds of illnesses much more successfully with early detection
from routine examinations of otherwise healthy patients. This saved
huge costs and made treatment of illnesses much more successful.
Unfortunately, recent costs of these services skyrocketed eliminating
many from necessary treatment & care, Many feel that this big problem
was greatly exacerbated by people and corporate greed that have nothing
to do with medicine, good health or longevity, and much to do with money
& profits. The latter is seen by many as minimizing needed personal
attention and taking serious chances with human lives. Bub, you ran out
In the mid 20th century, the field of Industrial Hygiene
came about to evaluate home, schools, & workplace environments for
conditions and substances already known to cause sickness, lost productivity,
injury & death. They then created & provided remediation
specifications, based on relevant education & good research - before
injuries occurred. This resulted in huge cost savings in worker efficiency
& productivity, money, morale, reduced suffering, and in fact extended
life itself. This is the fastest, easiest and most economical form of
real `preventive medicine'. Today, forensic chemistry is used to determine
causes of medical maladies after the fact. Reasons for chronic illnesses
like Parkinson's are easy for Scientists to identify and prevent the
afflicted from returning to an environment that caused the malady.
An Industrial Hygienist takes over where the Architect,
Engineer and home inspector leave off. Assessing built environments
for chemical, biological, radiological and physical insults & problems,
causes of a broad range of maladies can be easily identified and quantified.
This is called Industrial hygiene monitoring or industrial hygiene
optimization, which is based on sound scientific principles, just like
those for drinking water. Most U.S. Doctors refuse to implement these
powerful tools as if it would cut into their bottom line!
Industrial Hygienists may not know physiologic mechanisms of
exposure and illness but they all know large scale consequences of exposure
that are usually foreign to the Physician, who knows nothing of his
patients' environments. I.H.s track such things, which frequently have
nothing to do with mortality but everything to do with feeling and
staying healthy & well. This Scientist never uses disease, injury, nor
death to establish limits for human exposure, rather just the opposite
from relevant monitoring data and available resources. Our recommendation,
that reduced radon exposure by a factor of ten, cost less than a dollar.
An I.H. does not provide Engineering services and does not
solve exposure problems using costly engineering procedures in the
total absence of appropriate testing data. He can nevertheless greatly
enhance indoor environments in many far less costly ways. The I.H. is
not concerned with a building's `air changes per hour', but rather
the presence and sources of known dangers in occupants' "breathing zones",
and their sources & pathways. From this he proposes cost effective
management strategies, and follow up monitoring, as well as engineering
studies when needed. Industrial hygiene solutions are results driven,
starting with the least expensive that are most likely to provide the
greatest improvements. Our solutions can be implemented piecemeal and
spread over time if budgets are tight.
An Industrial Hygienist can be thought of as a building's
Physician, except they make `house calls' and never wait for sickness
to set in to act. I.H.s are a great deal less expensive than Physicians
and are willing to work with other professionals, including doctors.
Typically, they love people and their work and deal with delicate
situations with concern & discretion. Unlike Physicians, I.H.s can
be fired when people get injured or ill thus purifying the ranks. All
I.H. solutions are necessarily totally free of side effects! They
assimilate and apply regulations, disease and accident based knowledge,
and expertise from Environmental Physicians, OSHA, EPA, NIOSH, Center
for Disease Control, World Health Org., and Health Physicists to ascertain
dangerous, insidious insults and conditions before accidents or exposures
occur. These professional services are in fact truly `preventive medicine'
in the pure sense of the phrase. They use the same scientific principles and
techniques of detection and follow through as the Physician and other
Real I.H.s, like Physicians, never sell filters, hardware,
nor remediation services. These are a clear conflicts of interest, are
unethical, and require drastically different expertise, training and
equipment. Many find the credibility of large remediation firms lacking
because they mix remediation and assessment services from very young
folks whose reports are massaged and smoozed by expensive company lawyers.
On hazardous waste sites, contaminated with radionuclides,
the Industrial Hygienist has authority over the site's safety and all
others including the Health Physicist. This is a result of their broad
knowledge of safety, toxicology, physical science, and medical
consequences of exposures to chemical, biological, and radiological
To become an I.H., he/she must complete 4 to 6 full time
years of university education leading to a Bachelor's degree, usually
in Chemistry, Industrial Hygiene or Safety Engineering. Like the
Physician, an I.H. must practice, continue study, and regularly keep up
with hardware, automation and computer development, & techniques;
and new diseases and their etiology; the literature for new regulations
and studies in the fields of toxicology, medicine, building materials'
research and engineering developments. This field is very dynamic and
requires rigorous attention to detail and new technology. As in
medicine, diverse knowledge is of very great importance, as all
environments are as different as the people who create, live, and work
The field of Industrial Hygiene is generally unregulated by
public regulatory authorities despite arduous attempts by the real
professionals in this field to establish some official recognition policy. It
is common for non I.H.s to flim flam the unsuspecting with the I.H.
message of 'prevention' while never breathing a word about this
profession's title for fear of breaking what law there is [in
Colorado, it is illegal to represent oneself as a professional if one
doesn't have the credentials generally required in that profession
field]. More blatant charlatans will claim this profession as elected
politicos have reneged their responsibility they even require of beauticians!
Frequently these charlatans are easy to spot because they also sell
hardware or mix assessment with remediation - Beware!
That is why potential users of I.H. services must ask
those who present themselves as an I.H. three defining questions:
What did you study in school; What were you doing five years ago;
and What where you doing twenty-five years ago? You can do this,
it is imperative. This form of due diligence on the part of the user
will save expenses and potential headaches - and separate the technically
competent from those who merely represent themselves as I.H.s without
real knowledge, education, and expertise.
Private, unofficial recognition entities create lucrative
work for their paper pushers who might otherwise be unemployed [those
with little marketable talent and integrity] and, worse yet, sell a
myriad of fake credentials for the unqualified, dues paying 'members'
including those from the field of Geology-the study of rocks, who
only had to pass a test! This process creates an alleged expert with
billing rates that have jumped from ~$ 60-95.00 per hour to ~$ 150.00-
250.00+ per hour. Beware, sometimes the resulting myriad of confusing
credentialed `professionals' makes them perfect to create inaccurate
information for use by potentially responsible property owners to
`snow' the unsuspecting. This is much more risky and costly than hiring
union tradesman at a slightly higher cost than his cheaper, unrecognized
counterpart. Real oversight organizations, like those for Physicians and
Engineers, provide constant peer review that improves the quality of their
work. Still confused? Give us a call and we will gladly sort it out for
you, even if you prefer someone else.
In I.H. certifications, Exposure Scientists prefer to use the
terminology `Professional Industrial Hygienist' (PIH-now property of the
American Board of Industrial Hygiene) from State of Tennessee Code: 62-40-101.
Tennessee is one of only 17 such states, as Colorado still doesn't have
such policy on the books nor pending, (as of March, 2013) to protect the
title and profession from charlatans and those who merely cite
non-governmental classifications from various trades as their credentials.
The possibility of any building (in the U.S.) being as safe and
efficient as can be reasonably expected, that has not been assessed and
optimized by an Exposure Scientist or I.H., is very slim indeed. In fact,
we have never found any building with only one problem nor optimum, and the
vast majority of problems have simple, low tech solutions that are very
doable. Very few are difficult or expensive to solve. The fact that mail
carriers live longer than most other occupations bears witness to this
In fact, Industrial Hygienists' services provide the only
source of freedom from unnecessary illness, disease and loss of life,
reduced aging, with real prevention, before the fact. I.H.
solutions have no side effects and last the life of the unchanged
environment. Imagine the vast, new benefits to all if Physicians
called in I.H.s and Environmental Chemist(s) when they had a patient
with a malady known or suspected to have environmental exposure etiology.
Public and privately funded studies from the U.S. Department
of Labor25 and the National Energy
Management Institute, have demonstrated that such services are very cost
effective even when ignoring the costs of medical care as they also save
energy and the environment. These services are therefore an important part
of the ISO 14,000 standard.
An Environmental Chemist practices outdoors what the Exposure
Scientist/I.H. does indoors using many of the same methods and philosophy. Both
professions are required to provide the best protection of a comprehensive
environmental evaluation to meet accepted standards of `due diligence'.
Beware of those providing such services with a `check sheet'.
What is INDUSTRIAL HYGIENE?
(according to OSHA)?
Industrial hygiene is the [predictive-GKM] science of
anticipating, recognizing, evaluating, and controlling workplace [and all
built environments-GKM] conditions that may cause workers' injury or illness.
Industrial hygienists use environmental monitoring and analytical methods
to detect the extent of worker [and residential] exposure[s] and employ
engineering, work practice controls, and other methods to control potential
There has been an awareness of industrial hygiene since antiquity.
The environment and its relation to worker health was recognized as early ¨
as the fourth century BC when Hippocrates noted lead toxicity in the ¨
mining industry. In the first century AD, Pliny the Elder, a Roman ¨
scholar, perceived health risks to those working with zinc and sulfur. ¨
He devised a face mask made from an animal bladder [and you think modern
silicon rubber stinks?-GKM] to protect workers from exposure to dust and
lead fumes. In the second century AD, the Greek physician, Galen, accurately
described the pathology of lead poisoning and also recognized the hazardous
exposures of copper miners to acid mists.
In the Middle Ages, guilds worked at assisting sick workers and their ¨
families. In 1556 the German scholar, Agricola, advanced the science ¨
of industrial hygiene even further when, in his book De Re Metallica, ¨
he described the diseases of miners and prescribed preventive measures.
The book included suggestions for mine ventilation and worker protection,
discussed mining accidents, and described diseases associated with mining
occupations such as silicosis.
Industrial hygiene gained further respectability in 1700 when Bernardo ¨
Ramazzini, known as the "father of industrial medicine," published in ¨
Italy the first comprehensive book on industrial medicine, De Morbis ¨
Artificum Diatriba (The Diseases of Workmen). The book contained ¨
accurate descriptions of the occupational diseases of most of the ¨
workers of his time. Ramazzini greatly affected the future of industrial
hygiene because he asserted that occupational diseases should be ¨
studied in the work environment rather than in hospital wards.
Industrial hygiene received another major boost in 1743 when
Ulrich Ellenborg published a pamphlet on occupational diseases and injuries ¨
among gold miners. Ellenborg also wrote about the toxicity of carbon ¨
monoxide, mercury, lead, and nitric acid.
In England in the 18th century, Percival Pott, as a result of
his findings on the insidious effects of soot on chimney sweepers, was a
major force in getting the British Parliament to pass the Chimney Sweepers
Act of 1788. The passage of the English Factory Acts beginning in 1833
marked the first effective legislative acts in the field of industrial
safety. The Acts, however, were intended to provide compensation for
accidents rather than to control their causes. Later, various other European
nations developed workers' compensation acts, which stimulated the adoption
of increased factory safety precautions and the establishment of medical
services within industrial plants.
In the early 20th century in the U.S., Dr. Alice Hamilton, led
efforts to improve industrial hygiene. She observed industrial conditions
first hand and startled mine owners, factory managers, and state officials
with evidence that there was a correlation between worker illness and their
exposure to toxins [lead-GKM]. She also presented definitive proposals for
eliminating unhealthful working conditions.
At about the same time, U.S. federal and state agencies began
investigating health conditions in industry. In 1908, the public's awareness ¨
of occupationally related diseases stimulated the passage of compensation
acts for certain civil employees. States passed the first workers'
compensation laws in 1911. And in 1913, the New York Department of Labor
and the Ohio Department of Health established the first state industrial
hygiene programs. All states enacted such legislation by 1948. In most
states, there is some compensation coverage for workers contracting
The U.S. Congress has passed three landmark pieces of legislation
relating to safeguarding workers' health: (1) the Metal and Nonmetallic
Mines Safety Act of 1966, (2) the Federal Coal Mine Safety and Health Act
of 1969, and (3) the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (Act).
Today, nearly every employer is required to implement the elements of an
industrial hygiene and safety, occupational health, or hazard communication
program and to be responsive to the Occupational Safety and Health
Administration (OSHA) and the Act and its regulations. [After emasculation
of all such laws by the President in 1995!-GKM]
What is EXPOSURE SCIENCE?
EXPOSURE SCIENCE is a newer arm of Industrial Hygiene that deals
with exposures and their special considerations to chemical, biological,
radiological and physical elements for the purpose of reducing health and
safety risks in homes, schools and work places. 'Special considerations'
include assessment of chronic, unpredictable, intermittent exposures and
special methods development for their discovery & elucidation. From
Wikipedia.org: Exposure science is the study of human contact with chemical,
physical, or biological agents occurring in their environments, and advances
knowledge of the mechanisms and dynamics of events either causing or
preventing adverse health outcomes.
A major professional society that addresses their profession is
at: www.isiaq.org. Marsh has been a close friend and colleague of one of
its founders for more than 40 years.
What is BELOW REGULATORY
Sadly, far too many things, typically at levels known or
suspected to have serious harm or medical risks, are BRC. Consider the
OSHA carbon monoxide standard, radiological standards, and the
controversy over dioxin and mercury. Knowledge is developed by
Scientists but passed on to politicians who frequently make the final
ruling on exactly what exposures we will be subjected to. This has to
be expected as using gullible, apathetic humans; who think the regulators
(politicians) are doing a good job; as `guinea pigs' saves money over
animal testing and is therefore more acceptable. It gets worse when BRC
is based on standards derived from mortality studies of lab animals only,
while ignoring more subtle, serious, totally unacceptable effects on humans,
like asthma in children. Corporate attorneys and their industry
colleagues, bless their hearts, collude to confuse this issue further
with the use of `de minimus' confusing and obscure mumbo jumbo
that means essentially the same thing.
This is further exacerbated by the fact that nearly all
exposure standards ignore the most sensitive 20 % of the population.
This is deleterious to all. These include OSHA standards; standards for
well and drinking water (consider the political posturing over arsenic
when George Bush, jr., took office), and the fact that half of all
Americans drink water that is unfit for human consumption17; air pollution; radiologicals; and
biologicals; which still have no standards at all. Remember: Airport
security, tire design; and of course indoor air quality including the
defeat of the 5/94 OSHA proposed rule for IAQ standards in non
industrial workplaces [costing American business $ 60,000,000,000 a
year in lost productivity and broken computers]. This was imposed on
OSHA's existing authority by Federal Courts in a lawsuit filed by
Public Citizen, G.A.S.P., and the American Public Health Association.25 BRC usually gives quick, easy
license to anyone wishing to make a quick buck creating great risk for
Real travesties can be found in the standards themselves used by
regulatory agencies. For example, the National Ambient Air Quality
Standard for carbon monoxide is 9 ppm while the OSHA work place
standard was reduced from 50 ppm thru 1989 to 35ppm! Most standards are
based on levels thought to be safe for white, mature, healthy males,
while ignoring babies, children, the aged, women, pregnant women,
transplant patients, and those with chronic illnesses. Some standards
are, in fact, based on instruments' detection limits! These are the
result of: Failure of regulators to cooperate with one another; corporate
lap dogs and polluters, using dirty, ill gotten money to influence
regulators to corrupt good science that could protect all of us; stupid,
crooked, uneducated politicians, who cannot find Indiana on an unlabeled
map, and are elected with polluters' dirty money; the crime(s) of omission by
those in charge; old, established medical societies that have been
found to grossly misrepresent test results (don't forget Thalidomide)
because the reviewer is profiting from those drug sales, while the medical
journals' editors' promise to clean up their publication are just big,
fat lies; the lack of independent review boards, made up of potential
victims who are properly educated, compensated, and above corruption;
school district administrators that ignore IEQ problems in the face of
poor student performance; and of course the lack of reliable, long term
research & monitoring funding, frequently as a result of political
influence after rules for good IEQ, based on good science have been
proposed but abandon. Regulators turn a blind eye to serious problems
as it reduces their work load.
BRC is very rarely `below medical concern or effect' to the
most sensitive 30+% of the population and many others. Very sadly and
deleteriously to the rest of those present in the same environment, these
problems fall from the attention they need when the most sensitive flee.
This leaves all others to suffer, loose retirement and more unknowingly.
Like exposure standards, BRC can be based on nothing more than
detection limits of an instrument of analysis selected for the wrong reasons,
while ignoring medical consequences of exposure to large numbers of people
regulators and regulations are supposed to protect! Those promoting BRC never
address the fact that in a population of animals (humans are animals) the
difference in sensitivity to an insult between the most and least sensitive
individuals can be a factor of 1,000,000 (six orders of magnitude)!
They and Potentially Responsible Parties (PRPs) never discuss
`synergistic effects', even though more than one insult is always present.
Usually these same folks, who are rarely in dangerous place themselves,
deceive others by admitting some danger then deny it as a problem by
flippantly stating that the possibility of an `unplanned event' (accident)
is very low. These folks are typically from the public relations industry
and have no training, education, probability, statistics, nor expertise in
medicine, health, epidemiology, industrial hygiene, nor do they even care!
They do not seem to grasp the differences between likelihood of an event
and its magnitude. This fallacy is at the heart of the Chernobyl nuclear
plant disaster and the Three Mile Island debacle. It victimizes a large
part of the population known to be `mathematically challenged', or those
unfamiliar with statistics.
BRC reduces regulatory demands, saves regulators money,
reduces their work load, encourages them to play down danger, all while
failing to protect large segments of the population that are the most
sensitive, sometimes called 'canaries'! It also promotes nepotism and
allows them to hire people with poor educational preparation for the job.
Most exposure standards and unenforced 'guidelines' are based on effects
on a single effect on healthy white males, as is the case with radon. risk
assessment studies on animals is frequently used as human testing is taboo.
Risk assessment studies, based on actual exposures, are so expensive that
only the regulated and regulators can afford to conduct them. These can be
from firms that wish to please their clients so findings can be played down.
Some dangerous substances have no health based standards at
all even when it is known that when used as directed they will shorten
life and are rarely used by their manufacturers' CEOs: Tobacco and
pesticides. Many things have no standards at all, to wit: airborne mold
and bacteria; IEQ in non industrial work places, e.g., carbon monoxide,
aldehydes, and pesticides; chemical weapons exposure to women, children,
pregnant women, the aged and those with respiratory impairments; and
pesticides in schools, to name only a few. Frequently, small communities
turn a blind eye even to asbestos.31
The above is further diluted by the following: researchers
who create good research & data are subsequently smoozed over by
supervisors & regulators seeking promotion, who do not want to
`rock the boat'; regulators that have no guts or are otherwise on the
take; regulatory agencies like OSHA that have been turned into
consultants with the political mandate: `You can ignore us if you want,
as the laws have no punishment for violators; large populations of
victims who will not step forward with complaints or use the False
Claims Act, 31USC Sec. 3729 to `blow the whistle'; and budget cuts at
strategic times. All of this is diminished even more in the final step
when stupid, unprepared politicians31
decide on the final wording of proposed laws and whether or not they
It gets much worse. Victims, who seek the assistance of
government agencies can easily open themselves to be victimized again.
We were the successful, prevailing Scientists in a major pesticide
misuse case where an herbicide trespassed onto the victim's property
causing great damage to a beautiful organic orchard in Paonia, Colorado.
Their attorney insisted employing the U.S. E.P.A., Region 8 for what he
thought was `free' monitoring and analyses. They refused until forced to
by the local U.S. Representative to Congress. The E.P.A. investigator who
showed up and made an accurate problem assessment, but his superiors and
their attorneys saw the danger to the Agency's long term, lax pesticide
regulation and made a major rewrite of his findings. The final report turned
the victim into the guilty party! The moral: Never trust the government and
grasp the fact that any data they generate can be used against you as
it could demonstrate their negligence. State and local health
departments are usually worse for they get precious little funding and
are frequently subservient to the federal funders for their meager
funding. They are frequently laced with flunkies, charlatans, and
partisan hacks who made big campaign contributions. Always proceed on
your own, working thru an attorney whenever possible to have the
protection of data from client - attorney privilege. Good lawyers can
be found who can assist at acceptable cost.
Where are America's Physicians, Chiropractors, Dentists and
the American Medical Association on the important issue of recognizing
the myriad of toxic substances, at dangerous concentrations, they know
are present in our homes, schools and workplaces; from the materials
used to build them? It is difficult to overstate the high levels of
known toxins used in so many common products right under the noses of
regulators, while the medical community sits on their thumbs. Add toxic
goods, that need regulation or elimination from supplies of goods, from
totalitarian countries and this problem just skyrocketed.
These include arsenic in wood products and wall paper still in schools
& homes; wall paper, mercury amalgam dental fillings, medicines, and
old pesticides containing mercury; lead in old pesticides & gasoline,
plumbing, paints and finishes; asbestos that was used in all surfacing
substances indoors and out for decades after it was finally revealed
as toxic. These too are Below Regulatory Concern (BRC) to regulatory
agencies in spite of their insidious danger and ubiquitousness. These issues
clearly and easily transcend the subtleness and risks of BRC.
An emasculated, underfunded Food and Drug Administration, that has seen
reduced funding 18 of the last 19 years, is a false sense of security
and quite possibly worse than nothing at all! We have chosen to return
to the `dark ages'!
It is still: "Every man for himself", and those who depend on
the government for protection will loose their money, health and life.
Hope exists for those who seek it from us, see Political Action Support
in: "Clients We Serve". Marsh worked for the Environmental Protection
Agency as an Environmental Chemist/Scientist twice: Once from before
its inception and again 15 years later. He speaks with first hand
understanding of who pulls their strings and how they work behind
closed doors. EPA deceit, EPA duplicity, EPA hypocrisy, and EPA lies
abound in several forms. Marsh was awarded an `Outstanding Employee
Award', but was forced to quit when Dr. Donald I. Mount, Ph.D.,
Research Aquatic (Toxicologist), GS-16, and Director of the National
Water Quality Lab, Duluth, MN, stated: `Go find another place to
work'[sic], because Marsh complained of gross, unsafe laboratory
conditions and non compliance with the Presidential Executive Order
requiring government compliance with all OSHA regulations applying to
private workplaces! Like the president of DOW Chemical Co., Dr. Mount
knew distributing poisonous work place exposures to several researchers
(Marsh's replacements) would make tracing exposures to his inaction a lot
more difficult! Within one year of Marsh's departure, 17% of the scientific
staff died of cancer. Mr. Charles Stephen, Research Chemist and
a truly brilliant scientist in the same lab, blew off research findings
and proposals in 1970, that tetraethyl lead tainted gasoline would have to
go and second hand cigarette smoke would have to be treated as a carcinogen.
Where is OSHA in all this? They are no different. They treat workers
murdered on the job with incredible disdain, `Two deaths, $ 6,000 fine'.37, 38
With protection like this, who needs terrorists?
Never depend solely on the U.S. E.P.A. for advice on this or
related problems as they have a horrendous record. In 1987 the Environmental
Defense Fund found: [when battling E.P.A.'s lack of enforcement of the Clean
Air Act] "The risk of combat-related death during a one year tour of duty
[in Vietnam] was 1 in 44....Therefore the quantitative residual risk of lung
cancer for residents living near most coke [made from coal] plants
[emissions] is not much different from a six month tour of combat duty in
Vietnam."11.1 If that's not bad
enough, in the early 1970s, the U.S. E.P.A. recommended, with the discovery
of asbestos fibers in Lake Superior, to continue drinking Superior water from
municipal water suppliers, even though they had no method of removing
asbestos fibers; because no evidence existed, at the time, that drinking
asbestos fibers was a health risk [sic]! Later research proved them sorely
wrong again. In Denver, folks living near the Redfield Gunsight Company were
told by E.P.A., Region 8, that solvent vapors seeping into their homes, from
contaminated aquifers, were 400 times less than monitoring results
demonstrated - until victims generated accurate data from their own
assessment, monitoring, and independent analyses!15
On September 12, 2001 Christy Whitman, Administrator of the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency, clearly stated that in spite of gigantic
clouds of dust and burning jet fuel from the destruction of the World Trade
Center buildings, "the air is safe to breath"[sic]! In fact, all those
present, who were not in full respiratory protection - millions - will be
loosing major parts of their life happiness and expectancy, as now
demonstrated by all that litigation, some of which exonerated her completely!
Did the government lie about why and how the buildings collapsed? Listen to
them and become a Guinea Pig!
What is the INTERNATIONAL
BUILDING CODE (IBC)?
The U.S. `INTERNATIONAL BUILDING CODE' (IBC) is a sick joke that
is killing us for a number of really important reasons. It doesn't even
mention `Indoor Environmental Quality', standards for assessment, monitoring
methodology, nor standards for assessors. Also missing are lists of toxics
to expect in these building materials imported from totalitarian countries
flooding the U.S. because they are the 'lowest cost'. The IBC does expend
much verbiage, detail, and diagrams on such things as how to wind a copper
wire around a screw on a receptacle!
These materials arrive in record time in ships so large they make
the U.S.S. Missouri look like a tug boat! In fact the U.S. market alone is
so large that these manufacturers do not need the European market where they
are banned, nor their own countries where they are also banned.
People think government regulates building standards & conditions
for toxics, so easy and inexpensive at their time of arrival. Nothing could
be farther from reality. Sadly, this was successfully labeled 'socialism'
and eliminated in 1981 by a technically ignorant movie actor in the White
House. His legacy lives, even in local county inspection rules-and some
Counties have none! Building material standards for serious retirement
shortening Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Physical insults, found
in these materials, have been purged from the rules of decency, long ago,
by those who profit from cheap imports. These manufacturers are even killing
the slaves who make them, as well as ourselves-no different than the Dark
Where are they found? Typically in 'Big Box' stores who cater to
the designer and builders seeking the 'lowest bids', which is everyone and
applies to high end homes and buildings alike. And why not? Profits are huge
and construction warranties are short-One Year! Those who do not adequately protect themselves with quality monitoring
from quality professional Scientists will pay a price not so late in life
that gets bigger every month. You will not like this price.
This foolish author thought the change from 'Uniform Building
Code', (UBC) to IBC meant we adopted much more stringent standards from
European countries where they all out live us. What a fantasy! Instead, this
name change occurred when developing countries started to adopt our
'standards'. I couldn't make this up!
What is the PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE:
Services we provide very closely follow the philosophy of
precautions of/for the unknowns that may lurk behind the obvious or
preconceived notions of the client. The following is very important to
all wishing to benefit from preventing exposures from so many common things
and conditions known or suspected for being harmful.
The Multinational Monitor, September 2004 - VOLUME 25 - NUMBER 9
T h e P r e c a u t i o n a r y P r i n c i p l e
The Rise of the Precautionary Principle A Social Movement Gathers
By Nancy Myers
Ed Soph is a jazz musician and professor at the
University of North Texas in Denton, a growing town of
about 100,000 just outside Dallas, Texas. In 1997, Ed
and his wife Carol founded Citizens for Healthy Growth,
a Denton group concerned about the environment and future
of their town. The Sophs and their colleagues -- the group
now numbers about 400 -- are among the innovative pioneers
who are implementing the Precautionary Principle in the
The Sophs first came across the Precautionary Principle
in 1998, in the early days of the group's campaign to
prevent a local copper wire manufacturer, United Copper
Industries, from obtaining an air permit that would have allowed
lead emissions. Ed remembers the discovery of the
Wingspread Statement on the Precautionary Principle
-- a 1998 environmental health declaration holding
that "When an activity raises threats of harm to human
health or the environment, precautionary measures
should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships
are not fully established scientifically" -- as "truly a life-changing
experience." Using the Precautionary Principle as a guide, the
citizens refused to be drawn into debates on what levels of lead,
a known toxicant, might constitute a danger to people's health. Instead, they
pointed out that a safer process was available and insisted that
the wise course was not to issue the permit. The citizens
The principle helped again in 2001, when a citizen learned
that the pesticides 2,4-D, simazine, Dicamba and MCPP were being
sprayed in the city parks. "The question was, given the 'suspected'
dangers of these chemicals, should the city regard those suspicions as a
reassurance of the chemicals' safety or as a warning of their potential
dangers?" Ed recalls. "Should the city act out of ignorance or
out of common sense and precaution?"
Soph learned that the Greater Los Angeles School District had
written the Precautionary Principle into its policy on pesticide use and
had turned to Integrated Pest Management (IPM), a system aimed at
controlling pests without the use of toxic chemicals. The Denton group
decided to advocate for a similar policy. They persuaded the city's
park district to form a focus group of park users and organic
gardening experts. The city stopped spraying the four problem
chemicals and initiated a pilot IPM program.
The campaign brought an unexpected economic bonus to the
city. In the course of their research, parks department staff discovered that
corn gluten was a good turf builder and natural broadleaf
herbicide. But the nearest supplier of corn gluten was in the Midwest, and
that meant high shipping costs for the city. Meanwhile, a corn processing
facility in Denton was throwing away the corn gluten it produced as a
byproduct. The parks department made the link, and everyone was pleased. The
local corn company was happy to add a new product line; the city was happy
about the expanded local business and the lower price for a local product;
and the environmental group chalked up another success.
The citizens of Denton, Texas, did not stop there. They began
an effort to improve the community's air pollution standards. They got
arsenic-treated wood products removed from school playgrounds and parks
and replaced with facilities. "The Precautionary Principle helped us
define the problems and find the solutions," Ed says.
But, as he wrote in an editorial for the local paper,
"The piecemeal approach is slow, costly and often more concerned
with mitigation than prevention." Taking a cue from Precautionary Principle
pioneers in San Francisco, they also began lobbying for a comprehensive new
environmental code for the community, based on the Precautionary Principle.
In June 2003, San Francisco's board of supervisors had become the
first government in the United States to embrace the Precautionary
Principle. A new environmental code drafted by the city's environment
commission put the Precautionary Principle at the top, as Article One.
Step one in implementing the code was a new set of guidelines for city
purchasing, pointing the way toward "environmentally preferable"
purchases by careful analysis and choice of the best
alternatives. The White Paper accompanying the ordinance pointed out that
most of the city's progressive environmental policies were already
in line with the Precautionary Principle, and that the new code provided unity
and focus to the policies rather than a radically new direction.
That focus is important; too often, environmental matters
seem like a long, miscellaneous and confusing list of problems and solutions.
Likewise in Denton, the Precautionary Principle has not
been a magic wand for transforming policy, but it has put backbone into
efforts to enact truly protective and far-sighted environmental policies. Ed
Soph points out that, in his community as in others, growth had often
been dictated by special interests in the name of economic development, and
the environment got short shrift.
"Environmental protection and pollution prevention in our city had
been a matter, not of proactive policy, but of reaction to federal and
state mandates, to the threat of citizens' lawsuits, and to civic
embarrassment. Little thought was given to future environmental impacts," he
told the city council when he argued for a new environmental code.
He added, "The toxic chemical pollution emitted by area
industries has been ignored or accepted for all the ill-informed or selfish
reasons that we are too familiar with. The Precautionary Principle
dispels that ignorance and empowers concerned citizens with the means to
ensure a healthier future."
The Precautionary Principle has leavened the discussion of
environmental and human health policy on many fronts -- in international
treaty negotiations and global trade forums, in city resolutions and national
policies, among conservationists and toxicologists, and even in corpo
rate decision making.
Two treaties negotiated in 2000 incorporated the
principle for the first time as an enforceable measure. The Cartagena
Protocol on Biosafety allows countries to invoke the Precautionary Principle
in decisions on admitting imports of genetically modified organisms. It
became operative in June 2003. The Stockholm Convention on Persistent
Organic Pollutants prescribes the Precautionary Principle as a standard
for adding chemicals to the original list of 12 that are banned
by the treaty. This treaty went into force in February 2004.
Making Sense of Uncertainty
Understanding the need for the Precautionary Principle
requires some scientific sophistication. Ecologists say that changes in
ecological systems may be incremental and gradual, or surprisingly large and
sudden. When change is large enough to cause a system to cross a
threshold, it creates a new dynamic equilibrium that has its own stability
and does not change back easily. These new interactions become the norm
and create new realities.
Something of this new reality is evident in recently observed
changes in patterns of human disease:
* Chronic diseases and conditions affect more
than 100 million men, women, and children in the United States -- more than
a third of the population. Cancer, asthma, Alzheimer's disease, autism, birth
defects, developmental disabilities, diabetes, endometriosis, infertility,
multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease are becoming increasingly common.
* Nearly 12 million children in the United States (17 percent)
suffer from one or more developmental disabilities. Learning disabilities
alone affect at least 5 to 10 percent of children in public schools, and
these numbers are increasing. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
conservatively affects 3 to 6 percent of all school children. The incidence
of autism appears to be increasing.
* Asthma prevalence has doubled in the last 20 years.
* Incidence of certain types of cancer has
increased. The age-adjusted incidence of melanoma, non-Hodgkins lymphoma,
and cancers of the prostate, liver, testis, thyroid, kidney, breast,
brain, esophagus and bladder has risen over the past 25 years. Breast cancer, for
example, now strikes more women worldwide than any other type of cancer,
with rates increasing 50 percent during the past half century.
In the 1940s, the lifetime risk of breast cancer was one in
22. Today's risk is one in eight and rising.
* In the United States, the incidence of
some birth defects, including male genital disorders, some forms of
congenital heart disease and obstructive disorders of the urinary tract,
is increasing. Sperm density is declining in some parts of the
United States and elsewhere in the world.
These changes in human health are well documented. But
proving direct links with environmental causative factors is more
Here is how the scientific reasoning might go: Smoking
and diet explain few of the health trends listed above. Genetic factors
explain up to half the population variance for several of these conditions
-- but far less for the majority of them -- and in any case do
not explain the changes in disease incidence rates. This suggests that
other environmental factors play a role. Emerging science suggests
this as well. In laboratory animals, wildlife and humans, considerable
evidence documents a link between environmental contamination and
malignancies, birth defects, reproductive disorders, impaired behavior
and immune system dysfunction. Scientists' growing understanding of
how biological systems develop and function leads to similar conclusions.
But serious, evident effects such as these can seldom be linked
decisively to a single cause. Scientific standards of certainty (or
"proof") about cause and effect are high. These standards may
never be satisfied when many different factors are working together, produc
ing many different results. Sometimes the period of time between particular
causes and particular results is so long, with so many intervening factors,
that it is impossible to make a definitive link. Sometimes the timing of
exposure is crucial -- a trace of the wrong chemical at the wrong time in
pregnancy, for example, may trigger problems in the child's brain or
endocrine system, but the child's mother might never know she was exposed.
In the real world, there is no way of knowing for sure how much
healthier people might be if they did not live in the modern
chemical stew, because the chemicals are everywhere -- in babies' first
bowel movement, in the blood of U.S. teenagers and in the breast milk of
Inuit mothers. No unexposed "control" population exists. But clearly,
significant numbers of birth defects, cancers and learning disabilities
Scientific uncertainty is a fact of life even when it comes to the
most obvious environmental problems, such as the disappearance of
species, and the most potentially devastating trends, such as
climate change. Scientists seldom know for sure what will
happen until it happens, and seldom have all the answers about causes until
well after the fact, if ever. Nevertheless, scientific knowledge, as
incomplete as it may be, provides important clues to all of these conditions
and what to do about them.
The essence of the Precautionary Principle is that when lives
and the future of the planet are at stake, people must act on these clues
and prevent as much harm as possible, despite imperfect knowledge and even
A premise of Precautionary Principle advocates is that
environmental policies to date have largely not met this challenge.
Part of the explanation for why they have not is that the dimensions of the
emerging problems are only now becoming apparent. The limits of the earth's
assimilative capacity are much clearer now than they were when the
first modern environmental legislation was enacted 30 years ago. Another part
of the explanation is that, although some environmental policies are
preventive, most have focused on cleaning up messes after the fact --
what environmentalists call "end of pipe" solutions. Scrubbers on power
plant stacks, catalytic converters on tailpipes, recycling and super-sized
funds dedicated to detoxifying the worst dumps have not been enough.
The Precautionary Principle holds that earlier, more comprehensive and
preventive approaches are necessary. Nor is it enough to address problems
only after they have become so obvious that they cannot be ignored -- often,
literally waiting for the dead bodies to appear or for coastlines to
disappear under rising tides.
The third factor in the failure of environmental policies is
political, say Precautionary Principle proponents. After responding to
the initial burst of concern for the environment, the U.S. regulatory
system and others like it were subverted by commercial interests, with
the encouragement of political leaders and, increasingly, the complic
ity of the court system. Environmental laws have been subjected to an
onslaught of challenges since the 1980s; many have been modified or
gutted, and all are enforced by regulators who have been chastened
by increasing challenges to their authority by industry and the courts.
The courts, and now increasingly international trade
organizations and agreements like the World Trade Organization (WTO)
and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), have institutionalized
an anti precautionary approach to environmental controls. They have
demanded the kinds of proof and certainty of harms and efficacy of
regulation that science often cannot provide.
Ironically, one tool that has proved highly effective
in the battle against environmental regulations was one that was meant to
strengthen the enforcement of such laws: quantitative risk assessment. Risk
assessment was developed in the 1970s and 1980s as a systematic way to
evaluate the degree and likelihood of harmful side effects from
products and technologies. With precise, quantitative risk assessments
in hand, regulators could more convincingly demonstrate the need
for action. Risk assessments would stand up in court. Risk assessments
could "prove" that a product was dangerous, would cause a certain
number of deaths per million, and should be taken off the market.
Or not. Quantitative risk assessment, which became
standard practice in the United States in the mid-1980s and was
institutionalized in the global trade agreements of the 1990s, turned out
to be most useful in "proving" that a product or technology was not
inordinately dangerous. More precisely, risk assessments presented sets of
numbers that purported to state definitively how much harm might occur.
The next question for policy makers then became: How much harm is
acceptable? Quantitative risk assessment not only provided the answers; it
dictated the questions.
As quantitative risk assessment became the norm, commercial
and industrial interests were increasingly able to insist that harm
must be proven "scientifically" -- in the form of a quantitative risk
assessment demonstrating harm in excess of acceptable limits -- before
action was taken to stop a process or product. These exercises
were often linked with cost-benefit assessments that heavily weighted
the immediate monetary costs of regulations and gave little, if any,
weight to costs to the environment or future generations.
Although risk assessments tried to account for uncertainties,
those projections were necessarily subject to assumptions and simplifications.
Quantitative risk assessments usually addressed a limited number of
potential harms, often missing social, cultural or broader environmental
factors. These risk assessments have consumed enormous resources in strapped
regulatory agencies and have slowed the regulatory process. They have
diverted attention from questions that could be answered: Do better
alternatives exist? Can harm be prevented?
The slow pace of regulation, the insistence on "scientific
certainty," and the weighting toward immediate monetary costs often give the
benefit of doubt to products and technologies, even when harmful side
effects are suspected. One result is that neither international environmental
agreements nor national regulatory systems have kept up with the increasing
pace and cumulative effects of environmental damage.
A report by the European Environment Agency in 2001 tallied
the great costs to society of some of the most egregious failures to heed
early warnings of harm. Radiation, ozone depletion, asbestos, Mad Cow
disease and other case studies show a familiar pattern: "Misplaced
'certainty' about the absence of harm played a key role in
delaying preventive actions," the authors conclude.
They add, "The costs of preventive actions are usually tangible,
clearly allocated and often short term, whereas the costs of failing to act
are less tangible, less clearly distributed and usually longer term, posing
particular problems of governance. Weighing up the overall pros and cons
of action, or inaction, is therefore very difficult, involving ethical as
well as economic considerations."
The Precautionary Approach:
As environmentalists looked at looming problems such as
global warming, they were appalled at the inadequacy of policies based on
quantitative risk assessment. Although evidence was piling up rapidly
that human activities were having an unprecedented effect on global
climate, for example, it was difficult to say when the threshold of
scientific certainty would be crossed. Good science demanded caution
about drawing hard and fast conclusions. Yet, the longer humanity
waited to take action, the harder it would be to reverse any
effect. Perhaps it was already too late. Moreover, action would have to
take the form of widespread changes not only in human behavior but also
in technological development. The massive shift away from fossil
fuels that might yet mitigate the effects of global warming would
require rethinking the way humans produce and use energy. Nothing in the
risk-assessment-based approach to policy prepared society to do that.
The global meetings called to address the coming
calamity were not helping much. Politicians fiddled with blame and with
protecting national economic interests while the globe heated up.
Hard-won and heavily compromised agreements such as the 1997 Kyoto
agreement on climate change were quickly mired in national politics,
especially in the United States, the heaviest fossil-fuel user of all.
In the United States and around the globe, a different kind
of struggle had been going on for decades: the fight for attention to
industrial pollution in communities. From childhood lead poisoning in
the 1930s to Love Canal in the 1970s, communities had always faced an
uphill battle in proving that pollution and toxic products were making
them sick. Risk assessments often made the case that particular
hazardous waste dumps were safe, or that a single polluting
industry could not possibly have caused the rash of illnesses a community
claimed. But these risk assessments missed the obvious fact that many
communities suffered multiple environmental assaults, compounded by
other effects of poverty. A landmark 1987 report by the United Church
of Christ coined the term "environmental racism" and confirmed that
the worst environmental abuses were visited on communities of
color. This growing awareness generated the international environmental
In early 1998, a small conference at Wingspread, the
Johnson Foundation's conference center in Racine, Wisconsin, addressed these
dilemmas head-on. Participants groped for a better approach to
protecting the environment and human health. At that time, the
Precautionary Principle, which had been named in Germany in the 1970s, was
an emerging precept of international law. It had begun to appear in
international environmental agreements, gaining reference in a series of
protocols, starting in 1984, to reduce pollution in the North Sea; the
1987 Ozone Layer Protocol; and the Second World Climate Conference in 1990.
At the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, precaution was enshrined as
Principle 15 in the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development: "In order
to protect the environment, the precautionary approach shall be widely
applied by states according to their capabilities. Where there are threats
of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall
not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent
In the decade after Rio, the Precautionary Principle
began to appear in national constitutions and environmental policies
worldwide and was occasionally invoked in legal battles. For example:
* The Maastricht Treaty of 1994, establishing the European
Union, named the Precautionary Principle as a guide to EU environment and
health policy. * The Precautionary Principle was the basis for arguments in a
1995 International Court of Justice case on French nuclear testing.
Judges cited the "consensus flowing from Rio" and the fact that the
Precautionary Principle was "gaining increasing support as part of the
international law of the environment."
* At the World Trade Organization in the mid-1990s,
the European Union invoked the Precautionary Principle in a case involving a
ban on imports of hormone-fed beef.
The Wingspread participants believed the Precautionary
Principle was not just another weak and limited fix for environmental
problems. They believed it could bring far-reaching changes to the way those
policies were formed and implemented. But action to prevent harm
in the face of scientific uncertainty alone did not translate into
sound policies protective of the environment and human health. Other
norms would have to be honored simultaneously and as an integral part
of a precautionary decision-making process. Several other principles
had often been linked with the Precautionary Principle in various
statements of the principle or in connection with precautionary
policies operating in Northern European countries. The statement released
at the end of the meeting, the Wingspread Statement on the Precautionary
Principle, was the first to put four of these primary elements on
the same page -- acting upon early evidence of harm, shifting the
burden of proof, exercising democracy and transparency, and assessing
alternatives. These standards form the basis of what has come to be
known as the overarching or comprehensive Precautionary Principle
When an activity raises threats of harm to human
health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if
some cause and effect relationships are not fully established
In this context the proponent of an activity,
rather than the public, should bear the burden of proof.
The process of applying the Precautionary Principle must be
open, informed and democratic and must include potentially affected parties.
It must also involve an examination of the full range of alternatives,
including no action.
The conference generated widespread enthusiasm for the
principle among U.S. environmentalists and academics as well as among
some policy makers. That was complemented by continuing and growing
support for the principle among Europeans as well as ready adoption
of the concept in much of the developing world. And in the years
following Wingspread, the Precautionary Principle has gained new
Nancy Myers is communications director for the Science and
Environmental Health Network. This article is based on a chapter in a
Myers edited forthcoming book on the Precautionary Principle.
The Precautionary Principle: Answering the Critics
Opponents trot out a series of misleading claims to
contest the Precautionary Principle. A careful look shows how these claims
misrepresent basic Precautionary Principle precepts:
"If precaution applies to everything, it would stop all technology
in its tracks."
Response: Precautionary action usually means adopting safer
alternatives. A broad precautionary approach will encourage the development
of better technologies. Using this approach, society will say "yes"
to some technologies while it says "no" to others. Making uncertainty
explicit, considering alternatives, and increasing transparency and
the responsibility of proponents and manufacturers to demonstrate
safety should lead to cleaner products and production methods. It can
also mean imposing a moratorium while further research is conducted, calling
for monitoring of technologies and products already in use, and so forth.
"Precaution calls for zero risk, which is impossible to achieve."
Response: Any debate over the possibility of "zero risk" is
pointless. Our real goal must be to impose far less risk and harm
on the environment and on human health than we have in the past. We must
harness human ingenuity to reduce the harmful effects of our activities.
The real question is who or what gets the benefit of
the doubt. The Precautionary Principle is based on the assumption
that people have the right to know as much as possible about risks they
are taking on, in exchange for what benefits, and to make choices
accordingly. With food and other products, such choices are often played
out in the marketplace. Increasingly, manufacturers are choosing to reduce
risk themselves by substituting safer alternatives in response to
consumer uneasiness, the threat of liability and market pressures.
A key to making those choices is transparency -- about what
products contain, and about the testing and monitoring of those ingre
dients. Another is support, by government and industry, for the
exploration of -- and rigorous research on -- alternatives.
Market and voluntary action is not enough, especially
on issues that go beyond individual and corporate choice. It is
the responsibility of communities, governments, and international bodies
to make far-reaching decisions that greatly reduce the risks we now impose
on the earth and all its inhabitants.
"We don't need the Precautionary Principle; we have risk
Response: Risk assessment is the prevalent tool used to justify
decisions about technologies and products. Its proponents argue
that because conservative assumptions are built into these
assessments, they are sufficiently precautionary.
Too often, however, risk assessment has been used to
delay precautionary action: decision-makers wait to get enough information
and then attempt to "manage" rather than prevent risks. Risk
assessment is not necessarily inconsistent with the Precautionary Principle,
but because it omits certain basic requirements of the
decision-making process, the current type of risk assessment is only
helpful at a narrow stage of the process, when the product, technology or
activity and alternatives have been well developed and tested and a great
deal of information has already been gathered about them.
Standard risk assessment, in other words, is only useful in conditions of
relatively high certainty, and generally only to help evaluate alternatives
to damaging technologies.
Under the Precautionary Principle, uncertainty is also given
due weight. The Precautionary Principle calls for the examination
of a wider range of harms -- including social and economic ones
-- than traditional risk analysis provides. It points to the need to
examine not only single, linear risks but also complex interactions among
multiple factors, and the broadest possible range of harmful effects.
This broad, probing consideration of harm -- including the
identification of uncertainty -- should begin as early as possible in
the conception of a technology and should continue through its release and
use. That is, a precautionary approach should begin before the regula
tory phase of decision-making and should be built into the research
What is not consistent with the Precautionary Principle is
the misleading certainty often implied by quantitative risk
assessments -- that precise numbers can be assigned to the possibility of
harm or level of safety, that these numbers are usually a sufficient basis
for deciding whether the substance or technology is "safe," and that
lack of numbers means there is no reason to take action. The assumptions
behind risk assessments -- what "risks" are evaluated and how compari
sons are made -- are easily manipulated by those with a stake in their
"Precaution itself is risky: it will prevent us from adopting
technologies that are actually safer."
Response: This is not true. Precaution suggests two approaches
to new technology:
* Greater vigilance about possible harmful side
effects of all innovations. Alternatives to harmful technologies (such
as genetic modification to reduce pesticide use) must be scrutinized
as carefully as the technologies they replace. It does not make sense to
replace one set of harms with another. Brand-new technologies must
receive much greater scrutiny than they have in the past.
* Redirection of research and ingenuity toward inherently safer,
more harmonious, more sustainable technologies, products, and processes.
"Implementing the Precautionary Principle Will Be Too Expensive.
We Can't Afford It."
Response: If a cost-benefit analysis indicates that a
precautionary approach is too expensive, that analysis is probably incomplete.
Does it consider long-term costs? The costs to society? The costs of
harmful side effects -- monetary and non monetary? The costs spread over a
product's entire life cycle -- including disposal? The price tags of most
products and developments do not reflect their real costs. Like precautionary
science, precautionary economics operates in the real world, in which
connections, costs and benefits are complex and surrounded by uncertainty
-- but they cannot be ignored. Tallying the "cost" of precaution requires
making true value judgments, which can only partially be expressed by money.
But in the 21st Century, precaution is essential to a healthy, sustainable
"The Precautionary Principle is Anti-Science."
Response: On the contrary, the Precautionary Principle calls
for more and better science, especially investigations of complex
interactions over longer periods of time and development of more harmonious
technologies. It calls for scientific monitoring after the approval of
products. The assertion that the principle is "anti-science" is based on
any or all of the following faulty assumptions:
1) Those who advocate precaution urge action on the basis of
vague fears, regardless of whether there is scientific evidence to support
Most statements of the Precautionary Principle say it
applies when there is reason to believe serious or irreversible
harm may occur. Those reasons are based on scientific evidence of various
kinds: studies, observations, precedents, experience, professional judgment.
They are based on what we know about how processes work and might be
affected by a technology.
However, precautionary decisions also take into account what
we know we do not know. The more we know, scientifically, the greater
will be our ability to prevent disasters based on ignorance. But
we must be much more cautious than we have been in the past about moving
forward in ignorance.
2) Taking action in advance of scientific certainty undermines
Scientific standards of certainty are high in experimental
science or for accepting or refuting a hypothesis, and well they
should be. Waiting to take action before a substance or technology is
proven harmful, or even until plausible cause-and-effect relationships
can be established, may mean allowing irreversible harm to occur --
deaths, extinctions, poisoning, and the like. Humans and the
environment become the unwitting testing grounds for these
technologies. This is no longer acceptable. Moreover, science should
serve society, not vice versa. Any decision to take action --
before or after scientific proof -- is a decision of society, not
3) Quantitative Risk Assessment is More Scientific than Other
Kinds of Evaluation.
Risk assessment is only one evaluation method and provides
only partial answers. It does not take into account many unknowns
and seldom accounts for complex interactions -- nor does it raise our
sights to better alternatives.
"The Precautionary Principle is a Cover for Trade
Response: The Precautionary Principle was created to
protect public health and the environment, not to restrict valid
trade. North American, Argentinean and other representatives in trade
talks have leveled this accusation against the European Union in
response to EU action on beef containing growth hormones and on
genetically modified foods and crops. Recent EU statements on the
Precautionary Principle have emphasized that the principle should be
applied fairly and without discrimination.
However, the real issue is not protectionism but whether a
nation has the sovereign right to impose standards that exceed the
standards of international regimes. The 2000 European
Commission statement on the Precautionary Principle and Cartagena Biosafety
Protocol both assert that right.
What is QUALITY CONTROL
& QUALITY ASSURANCE?
Quality Control/Quality Assurance (QC/QA) is the necessary
component in nearly everything from politics to pharmaceuticals that
prevents fraud, bad products & services, and prevents people from
becoming `Guinea Pigs'. This additional process costs money and is
frequently minimized or ignored by technically incompetent people in
important positions of power and authority who are responsible for its
Nearly all companies and most government organizations, as
well as many non profits view the costs of quality control/quality
assurance as a cost or `sink' with little or no benefits. This is in
great contrast to Mercedes Benz and Volkswagen before 1968, and most large
American potable water suppliers in large municipalities. Lack of
adequate funding of QC/QA is much easier to attain in a population of
the ignorant until something goes wrong, e.g., NASA shuttle disasters,
thalidomide, and the stock market to name only a few. Feel free to add
your own. It gets worse. Bad or inadequate QC/QA was also responsible
for the O.J. Simpson trial outcome and the poorly designed and
constructed homes, schools and work places we all use.
How is QC/QA attained? It starts with an attitude that
demands a certain, defined level of quality, but not necessarily the
best. This is followed by setting aside required resources, including
money and time. After the product or service is produced or provided
QC/QA is required to test/determine the adequacy in a fashion that will
detect the most failures that are not acceptable. Why does this fail so
often? Lack of knowledge, concern, & funding, and failure to
test/observe over a long enough time period to quantify relevant
WORDS of WISDOM:
Do not ever trust any claims, from a government health
agency, large, medium, or small. These folks have very small budgets
only for ongoing or preplanned projects. Sometimes money comes from
corrupt Federal agencies like the Department of Energy (D.o.E.), who
takes marching orders from their contractors while being protected from
litigation by the U.S. Department of Justice, such as at the Rocky
Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant Superfund Mega-Site.
16.2, 33, 34
It is very rare when they will have any interest in your problem as it
is the folks at the top who will be making all decisions. They will
defund monies for your problem unless it involves enough of your
neighbors to make it a future political detriment. Ask for the story of
how the U.S. E.P.A., Region VIII, handled the pesticide poisoning of an
organic orchard in Paonia, Colorado.
Given the above, who in their right mind would spend their
life studying and practicing something as difficult as CHEMISTRY when
they could do something much easier, like law, and make much, much more
with a lot less workplace danger? Graduate study is even worse given
the treatment and groveling needed for research grants and funding. Be
patient with what few Chemists and labs remain. Laboratories are
dangerous places that cost a fortune to design, build, staff, and
maintain within regulations. Therefore, they are diminishing in number
and reducing the available time for your samples and questions. The
independent, consulting Chemist will save you many billable hours,
finding the best solution(s) to your problem.
A successful ANTI AGING OPTIMIZATION of an environment
requires the client to have three budgets: For assessment, for
remediation, and for follow up monitoring to ascertain degree of clean
up and verify that no undiscovered insults remain. Professional
assessment starts with reviewing what has already been completed,
followed by an on site visual assessment to develop a report of
findings and plan to proceed. Services can be provided in a `piecemeal'
fashion for those on limited budgets. This also tends to improve the
efficiency of the process. Listening to the Scientist when he indicates
that sampling an environment that is too filthy or otherwise
contaminated to produce meaningful data, and in need of preparatory
clean up prior to sampling, will save big money. It is unethical to use
the client's resources to prove the equivalent of "water flows down
hill". The cost of a full residential assessment is not a lot more than
a partial assessment for only one problem. To proceed in the least
expensive manner, provide all previous data and reports, set up a
funding method, make access easy, and do not cling to preconceived
notions - you are not a Forensic Chemist. Heed the complete report
and do follow up monitoring at the prescribed time. For large
commercial buildings greater than 4000 sq. meters (40,000 sq.ft.) the
cost is usually less expensive than professional carpet cleaning. After
a building becomes uninhabitable, forensic assessment costs are
typically 1 to 2 percent of the value of the property. Travel costs are
not a function of distance but rather of planning and time used for
assessment, greater is less expensive!
If you are shopping for the LOWEST BIDDER, and have not stated
defined your project scope in writing, save your time and ours and look
somewhere else. We are not the lowest bidder for a number of reasons
starting with the fact that the profession and title of Exposure Scientist,
Industrial Hygienist (I.H.), and Forensic Chemist, thanks to many governing
bodies who are completely indifferent to their title protection, have failed
to do their job and have hence allowed the field to be laced with phonies
& charlatans. Anyone can call himself or herself an I.H. without
consequences and we know some that do regularly. We also use other
professionals for key services that are also not the lowest cost. Real
Scientists charge reasonable fees well below those of Physicians and
Attorneys. We are very cost effective as we do the job right the first time
with solutions that never have side effects. Our services are for
enlightened, competent, concerned people wanting to reap the benefits of
environmental optimization with good science.
As always, nothing in this web page is copyrighted. Feel free
to copy and circulate any and all you judge fit for that purpose. We only ask
you credit this source.
"Death occurs after one is exposed to one more insult than is
tolerable," Greg Marsh, ca 1985.