Tailoring The Precautionary Principle To Pharmaceuticals In The Environment: Accounting For Experts’ Concerns
Free (open access)
N. A. Doerr-MacEwen & M. E. Haight
Over the past decade, scientists have detected an increasing number of pharmaceuticals in surface water and groundwater in urban areas. The effects of these pharmaceuticals on aquatic ecosystems are uncertain, although in some cases pharmaceuticals have been linked with effects such as the feminization of fish. As concern exists that pharmaceuticals in natural waters could have subtle, long-term effects on the reproduction, development, and/or behaviour of aquatic species, the precautionary principle could arguably be applied to induce management action to reduce the release of pharmaceuticals to aquatic environments. As part of a larger study on the management of pharmaceuticals in the environment, we interviewed 27 experts on pharmaceuticals in the environment from the academic, government, and industrial sectors, to ascertain their views on the precautionary principle, and its implications for pharmaceuticals in the environment. Most had a favourable opinion of the precautionary principle, but many also cautioned that it must be applied in a proportional and carefully balanced manner, and that it should include continued research. Based on the results of our interviews, we discuss how the precautionary principle can be tailored to the problem of pharmaceuticals in the environment, addressing the concerns of scientific and management experts, and reducing the levels of pharmaceuticals being discharge to aquatic environments. Keywords: precautionary principle, pharmaceuticals, risk management, scientific experts, proportionality, adaptive planning, aquatic environment, uncertainty, surface water, interviews.
precautionary principle, pharmaceuticals, risk management, scientific experts, proportionality, adaptive planning, aquatic environment, uncertainty, surface water, interviews.