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Welcome to PSR's Environmental Health Policy Institute, where we ask questions -- then we ask the experts to answer them. Join us as physicians, health professionals, and environmental health experts share their ideas, inspiration, and analysis about toxic chemicals and environmental health policy.


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How can we set science-based policies in the face of scientific uncertainty?

Posted by Molly Rauch, MPH on October 7, 2010

Science asks questions, and then tries to answer them. But the answers are constantly evolving, due to increasingly precise measurements, advances in technology, and creative breakthroughs in our conceptual framework. There is always more to learn.

In the field of environmental health, even our best-studied toxicants continue to yield surprising revelations about their health effects. For example, lead, long understood to be a powerful neurotoxin, is now known to affect other organ systems as well, and at levels previously thought to be safe. New research continues to clarify exactly how lead affects us, proving that we will never know everything there is to know about the health effects of a given substance.

But at what point do we know enough to try to protect people from detrimental health effects? How can we ensure our safety, in light of the inevitability of scientific uncertainty?


The views expressed in these essays are those of their respective authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Physicians for Social Responsibility.

Responses: Martha Dina Arguello, Lin Kaatz Chary, Steven G. Gilbert, Michael McCally

Comments said ..

A lot is known about the dangers that meth lab chemicals pose to human health, but the public is largely unaware of that information. Educating the public about the health dangers that these homes present is vitally important to protecting the health of the public. Dawn Turner

February 15, 2011

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