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San Francisco First In Nation to Adopt Precautionary Principle
(Beyond Pesticides, June 23, 2003) The San Francisco Chronicle reported June 19, 2003 that the city is poised to become the first city in the country to adopt an environmental code that will require regulations to minimize hazardous exposure under the Precautionary Principle.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is expected to pass the new policy this week. Mayor Willie Brown is expected to sign it into law.

Environmentalists have long advocated that laws seek to protect the public by asking how little harm is possible rather than asking how much harm is allowable. This approach seeks to prevent disease caused by environmental pollution through the adoption of precautionary measures.

Jared Blumenfeld, who heads San Francisco's Department of the Environment, said, "The world cannot be 'risk-free,' but there are safer alternatives to the many toxic, carcinogenic and environmentally destructive practices and products in use today."

The Precautionary Principle, Blumenfeld points out, forces us to reframe the questions faced by government officials. Instead of asking, for example, "How much air pollution from fossil fuels should we tolerate in the Bay Area before we're absolutely certain it causes respiratory illnesses?," the Precautionary Principle directs us to look for cleaner sources of sustainable energy.

"Regulations and laws are not protecting our health and environment from the onslaught of harmful chemicals we are exposed to," said Jeanne Rizzo, executive director of the Breast Cancer Fund. "The Precautionary Principle is the starting point for prevention."