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Pure Appl. Chem., 2003, Vol. 75, No. 11-12, pp. 2543-2545

Differing perspectives on the use of scientific evidence and the precautionary principle

J. Burger

Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute, and Consortium for Risk Evaluation with Stakeholder Participation, Division of Life Sciences, Cell Biology and Neurosciences, Rutgers University, Piscataway, NJ 08854, USA

Abstract: Different governments and agencies are approaching the use of scientific evidence, weight of evidence, and the precautionary principle in different ways. The European community has used the precautionary principle in situations where the consequences are great, data are unavailable or will be costly (in terms of money and time) to obtain, or data are difficult or impossible to obtain. Other countries, such as the United States, have a risk assessment process that has built-in safety or uncertainty factors which are themselves precautionary. Risk management decisions can be made on the basis of adequate studies, risk assessment, weight-of-evidence approaches, and the application of the precautionary principle. While weight of evidence has been used in the United States for increased research funding and regulator action with respect to some chemicals that are hormonally active, the European community has applied the precautionary principle.