• Late Lessons from Early Warnings

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Late Lessons from Early Warnings

Feb 02 2013

The first volume of Late Lessons from Early Warnings - subtitled the Precautionary Principle 1896-2000 - published in 2001 by the European Environment Agency, documented the history of technologies subsequently found to be harmful using case studies to identify the dates of early warnings, to analyse how this information was used, or not used, in reducing hazards, and to describe the resulting costs, benefits and lessons for the future.

This second volume - subtitled science, precaution, innovation - notes that developments in technology and their rapid adoption on global scale results in any risks being more spread further and faster and is outstripping society's capacity to understand, recognise and respond to their effects. To illustrate their concerns this new volume includes case studies on the stories behind industrial mercury poisoning; fertility problems caused by pesticides; hormone-disrupting chemicals in common plastics; and pharmaceuticals that are changing ecosystems. The report also considers the warning signs emerging from technologies currently in use, including mobile phones, genetically modified organisms and nanotechnology.

The report recommends the wider use of the ‘precautionary principle’ to reduce hazards in cases of new and largely untested technologies and chemicals. It states that scientific uncertainty is not a justification for inaction, when there is plausible evidence of potentially serious harm.

 


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