In June, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 8-2 to
adopt the Precautionary Principle, consolidating the city's
environmental laws into a single code to 'create and maintain a
healthy, viable Bay Area environment for current and future
generations,' reports Rachel's Environment and Health
News. Created by San Francisco breast cancer activist Joan
Reinhardt, Carolyn Raffensperger of the Science and Environmental
Health Network in Ames, Iowa, and Massachusetts attorney Sanford
Lewis, the ordinance was supported by a host of Bay City
According to the Environmental Research Foundation web site, the
principle is the result of a two-year study of how to most
effectively integrate city and county environmental policies. The
study's findings concluded:
- Every citizen has an inherent right to 'live healthy,
fulfilling. and dignified lives,' with access to clean air, water,
earth, and food.
- Environmentally harmful activities have historically been
identified only after people and the environment have been harmed.
To effectively repair the damage, the city must '[move] beyond
finding cures for environmental ills to preventing the ills before
they do harm.'
- Citizens are equal partners in decisions affecting their
The report concluded that five elements are necessary to the
Precautionary Principle's success:
- Anticipatory action to prevent harm, emphasizing equal
responsibility on government, business, community groups, and the
- Community's right to know 'complete and accurate information on
potential human health and environmental impacts [of] products,
services, operations, or plans' with the burden of information
falling on the proponent, not the public.
- Obligation to assess and select the most effective alternative,
including the choice to do nothing.
- Duty to consider all costs, from raw materials to cleanup,
'even if such costs are not reflected in the initial price.'
- Participatory Decision Process, in which all decisions are
'transparent, participatory, and informed by the best available
The board will reconvene in three years to review the
effectiveness of Precautionary Principle Policy.
-- Erin Ferdinand
San Francisco Adopts the Precautionary Principle