Precautionary principle

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Precautionary principle: administrative principle to act even without full proof of danger, if the consequences would be serious (see also conservative risk assessment). [1]

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The precautionary principle states that if an action or policy might cause severe or irreversible harm to the public, in the absence of a scientific consensus that harm would not ensue, the burden of proof falls on those who would advocate taking the action. The precautionary principle is most often applied in the context of the impact of human development or new technology on the environment and human health, as both involve complex systems where the consequences of actions may be unpredictable. There are several ways to apply this principle, such as
  1. Precautionary principle based on expected value
  2. Precautionary principle based on worst-case or another 'conservative' scenario.

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Also an administrative principle to act in the state of uncertainty assuming that the worst prediction is true (see conservative risk assessment).


  1. Jouko Tuomisto, Terttu Vartiainen and Jouni T. Tuomisto: Dioxin synopsis. Report. National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), ISSN 1798-0089 ; 14/2011 [1]