The Role of Science and the Precautionary Principle
Full scientific certainty almost never exists with respect to environmental and health risks, and as a result, environmental and health decision makers almost never have all of the scientific information they would like to have in order to make regulatory decisions. To address this problem, decision makers can decide to take a precautionary stance when faced with incomplete knowledge and the prospect of harm to the environment or human health. Such a precautionary approach is particularly important because numerous environmental and health risks are both complex and multifaceted. Additionally, by the time the impacts of some of these risks are fully scientifically established, it is too late to formulate an effective response – the damage has already been done and reversing the damage becomes impossible or extremely difficult. Precaution is an essential element of virtually every domestic regulatory system in the world for protecting human health and the environment. It is also an essential element of international efforts to protect human health and the environment.