PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE

The Precautionary Principle is an important public policy concept focusing on proactive health, safety and environmental protection. Procter & Gamble accepts the Rio Definition of the Precautionary Principle as a central baseline to ensure safety, but goes well beyond it, stressing the use of the best science and technologies available. It is not only the properties of our products that must be evaluated for their safety, but how they are used and considered within a science-based safety assessment. P&G applies the precautionary principle to realistic testing procedures and brings into context the potential sustainability benefits from innovations of substances, so long as safety is kept at the core. While chemical legislation in most countries and international frameworks use precaution appropriately, P&G continuously develops new techniques and gathers more comprehensive information to ensure that its products are used safely, sustainably and consistently all over the world.

  • What is the Precautionary Principle?

    The formation of the “Precautionary Principle” began decades ago. It is a public policy concept focused on proactive health, safety and environmental protection. At its core is the premise that a substance should be banned or restricted based primarily on its possibility for harm without knowing whether it could cause actual harm to people or the environment. A widely accepted definition is the “Rio Declaration” from the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development:

    In order to protect the environment, the precautionary approach shall be widely applied by States according to their capabilities. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation. (UNEP, 1992)
  • Procter & Gamble, Safety and the Precautionary Principle

    At P&G, protecting the people who use and manufacture our products and the environment we all live in has the highest priority. When we evaluate the safety of new ingredients and products, we go beyond precaution to utilize the best science and technologies available. Precaution is a central element of our safety approach – if we are unsure about an ingredient’s safety, we will not use it.

    In reality, it is not just a substance or ingredient’s properties that makes it safe or unsafe, but also how it is used. Every substance can be used safely or in a way that causes harm. As a result, P&G supports broadly recognized science-based approaches where the way an ingredient is used is included in its evaluation. We do not support broad restrictions of substances based simply on their possibility for causing harm alone.
    • An ingredient’s properties are often assessed in unrealistic testing scenarios. So, they are insufficient to determine what is safe. We must interpret this information in light of how it is actually used in real-life. Banning a substance with only half the story does little to protect public health and the environment.
    • Precautionary bans based only on a substance’s possibility for harm in often unrealistic testing scenarios can stifle innovation by broadly eliminating chemicals that could bring substantial benefits to improving the lives of people, and/or enhanced safety, environmental or sustainability profiles when used properly.
  • Precaution and Technological Innovation

    At P&G, we view technological innovation as the engine that improves the quality of people’s lives, and moves us toward a sustainable future by improving eco-efficiency, conserving resources, reducing waste, and reinventing current products and services. To make progress towards these goals, precaution must be applied in a responsible and conscientious manner that considers the specific use of a substance or technology in light of safety information.
  • Safety Assessment at P&G and around the World

    P&G researchers use the same science-based safety assessment approaches that are used by both scientists and regulatory authorities around the world. This science-based safety assessment approach:
    • utilizes information about a substance’s use and compares it to acceptable safe benchmarks from testing scenarios,
    • provides a framework for developing any additional information that would be necessary to characterize the substances’ safety profile, and
    • incorporates well recognized margins of safety that account for variations in both a chemical’s testing profile and how it may be used by people in real-life.
  • Current Regulations Incorporate Precaution

    The use of precaution is appropriately reflected in most national and international chemical laws and regulations in that they state that all consumer products must be demonstrated as safe prior to bringing them onto the market. Regulations that recognize the need for precaution in the absence of adequate information about the possibility for harm and actual use context of a substance include: REACH, the Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act and the Toxic Substances Control Act in the US and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.
  • References

    • EC (European Commission). 1998. Guidelines on the Application of the Precautionary Principle. Discussion document prepared by Directorate-General XXIV, Consumer Policy and Consumer Health Protection, European Commission, Rue de la Loi Lot 200, B-1049 Bruxelles, Belgium. 17 October 1998.
    • Kriebel D, Tickner J, Epstein P, Lemons J, Levins R, Loechler EL, Quinn M, Rudel R, Schettler T, Stoto M. The Precautionary Principle in Environmental Science. Environmental Health Perspectives. 2001, Vol. 109, No. 9. pp 871-876.
    • Pittinger CA, Bishop WE. Unraveling the Chimera: A Corporate View of the Precautionary Principle. Human and Ecological Risk Assessment. Vol. 5, No. 5. pp 951-962.
    • Procter & Gamble’s Environmental Quality Policy. Our Values and Polices. www.pg.com

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Illustrations from P&G's Science-in-the-Box website can be used freely for educational, non-commercial purposes provided that the source will be published as follows: "Obtained from www.scienceinthebox.com (P&G website)"

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