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Health, Toxics, and Precaution

Protection of public health and the environment requires a precautionary approach -- taking action in response to threats of serious, irreversible harm, even when science has not finished working out the details of the cause-and-effect relationships. In the face of strong arguments for precaution, industry representatives and their allies in government argue that precautionary policies will harm the economy. The anti-precautionary economic argument appears repeatedly in the debates over the regulation and phase-out of toxic chemicals, an active area of health and environmental policy today.

Our research challenges these conventional economic arguments, and provides new economic arguments in support of precautionary policies in several areas:

• We have conducted several studies on the the costs of REACH, the European Union's proposed new chemicals policy. Our studies refute industry claims of enormous costs and demonstrate that REACH will have only modest, entirely affordable costs. Read more about our work on REACH on our European Chemicals Policy page.

• In cooperation with the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow, a Massachusetts network of health and environmental organizations, we produced "Costs of Preventable Childhood Illness: The Price We Pay for Pollution", a report on the costs of major children's health problems associated with environmental exposures in Massachusetts.

• Our work on polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a substance that poses severe health hazards throughout its lifecycle, includes "The Economics of Phasing Out PVC", a major report on the economics of phasing out PVC; a short conference presentation on the same subject, and a forthcoming report on options for disposal of PVC waste in Maine.

• Work on the economic theory of precaution includes "Prospering with Precaution", an essay on the employment impacts of health and environmental protection; "The Outer Bounds of the Possible: Economic Theory, Precaution, and Dioxin", a short paper on precautionary approaches to dioxin policy; and additional work in progress.

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Global Development And Environment Institute
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