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Pathophysiology. 2009 Aug;16(2-3):217-31. doi: 10.1016/j.pathophys.2009.01.004. Epub 2009 May 21.

Late Lessons from Early Warnings: Towards realism and precaution with EMF?

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European Environment Agency, Kongens Nytorv 6, DK-1050 Copenhagen K, Denmark.


The histories of some well-known public and environmental hazards, from the first scientifically based early warnings about potential harm, to the subsequent precautionary and preventive measures, have been reviewed by the European Environment Agency in their report "Late Lessons from Early Warnings: The Precautionary Principle 1896-2000". This paper summarises some of the definitional and other issues that arise from the report and subsequent debates, such as the contingent nature of knowledge; the definitions of precaution, prevention, risk, uncertainty, and ignorance; the use of different strengths of evidence for different purposes; the nature and main direction of the methodological and cultural biases within the environmental health sciences; the need for transparency in evaluating risks; and public participation in risk analysis. These issues are relevant to the risk assessment of electro-magnetic fields (EMF). Some implications of these issues and of the "late lessons" for the evaluation and reduction of risks from EMF are indicated.

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