Last year, I was invited by PlasticsEurope to speak at their conference on ‘Safety of plastics: Let’s talk about it!’. Ahead of this meeting, they asked speakers to answer a number of questions on the precautionary principle and innovation (http://plasticseurope.blogspot.co.uk/). Given current concerns that the proposed new structure of the European Commission is relegating the environment to a market-role, the perceived conflict between taking precautionary action to protect human health and the environment and innovation and competitiveness is more topical than ever. Here were my answers. What would you have replied?
Toxicology and the evaluation of the safety of chemicals rest on the principle of Paracelsus. This Swiss alchemist, astrologer and doctor enunciated in the XVIth century that « everything is a poison, nothing is without poison, what makes the poison is the dose». From the point of view of regulatory toxicology, this is interpreted as meaning that it is theoretically possible to determine a threshold dose below which there would be no harmful effects.