Avoid health issues thanks to precautionary principle



Precautionary principle is one of the biggest principles of environnemental and health law. Among this principle, there exist the prevention principle, and polluter-pay principle. European law recognizes the first one in the article 174 of CE European Community (EC) treaty. 



  • Definition and stakes: 


   To begin with, Rio conference speak appeals to precautionary principle. This principle is defined as follows : “ In case of major or irreversible damage, and if there exist some doubts, it could not serve as a pretext to adopt later some measures, to protect and provide environment degradation”. 

   This principle  appeared in France thanks to Barnier law in 1995. We can also find this principle in L-110-1 article of environmental law. Later, this principle was written inside the environmental charter in 2004 in the article 5. 

   That is why, to implement this principle, there must exist some scientific and technical doubts, and a risks of irreversible damages. The charter is adding an important precision. It is intern measures, and they must be proportionate 

   Furthermore, a mayor could contest a planning permission (CE, July 2010). Before, it was not like that, because legislator thought it was contrary to the  independence of legislation. 

   It is important to identify the difference between precautionary principle and principle of prevention. Indeed, the first one is used to limit potential risks. Contrary to principle of prevention, which is controlling risks that already exist. 

   In fact, precautionary principle consists to make people aware of their responsabilities.  Because we cannot check if those risks could happen. But, by the future, those risks could actually happen.  


We can also define this principle in one quote “ prevention is better than cure”.


  •  Precautionary principle : a good way to avoid health issues:


   Around the world, we can identify some things we could apply this principle to. 

   First of all, nanomaterials. Research reveals that some nano-objects could have an effect on certain animals. In fact, they can inhale or eat it. We do not know if there is a real danger, but a risk do exist. Also, we do not know if a big danger can be considered , only because we do not have enough knowledge about the subject, not because it does not exist. In France, nanomaterials are framed by chemical management notions. 

   We can also speak about dioxin. We suppose that dioxin is the worst carcinogenic product in the world; But, we are not sure. In 1976, there was an accident, and some dioxin were accidently spreaded in the Rhine river. Some women decided to  miscarry, because their babies were put at too much risks. But, some other decided to not miscarry, and babies and mothers were in good health. 

   Last but not least, “Bisphenol A” ( called BPA) is considered in USA and France like endocrine disruptor.  BPA is used for plastic construction. It is suspected of causing reproductive disorders, and it could be carcinogenic. That is why, even if all these bad effects have not been demonstrated on humans, a lot of scientifics experiments lead to show that animals have some bad reactions because of this endocrine disruptor. It is important to potect the population against this potential health issues, BPA is forbiden.


   To conclude, we do not know exactly what are the risks. But, if we do not know, it does not mean that there is no risk at all, it means that we do not have enough knowlege about the subject. Ultimately We must be careful and use precautionary principle. 


sources :



A propos de Marie BERNARD

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