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Can J Public Health. 2010 Sep-Oct;101(5):396-8.

A Canadian framework for applying the precautionary principle to public health issues.

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Division of Epidemiology, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON.


The precautionary principle has influenced environmental and public health policy. It essentially states that complete evidence of a potential risk is not required before action is taken to mitigate the effects of the potential risk. The application of precaution to public health issues is not straightforward and could paradoxically cause harm to the public's health when applied inappropriately. To avoid this, we propose a framework for applying the precautionary principle to potential public health risks. The framework consists of ten guiding questions to help establish whether a proposed application of the precautionary principle on a public health matter is based on adequacy of the evidence of causation, severity of harm and acceptability of the precautionary measures.

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