Principled Prevention

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Timothy F. Malloy

Is an ounce of prevention really worth a pound of cure when it comes to the regulation of chemicals? If you believe the aspirational statements of legislators, regulators, public health scientists and others, the answer is a definite “yes.” Yet when you look at the structure of regulatory programs and actual practices on the ground, that ounce is hard to find. Chemical policy in the United States essentially relegates prevention of chemical exposures to voluntary programs and initiatives. Mainstream regulation focuses instead on managing exposures, largely relying on control technologies to capture or destroy emissions and discharges of hazardous chemicals. This article asks what a mainstream prevention-based regulatory system would look like. It presents a typology of prevention-based regulatory approaches and a set of principles for evaluating them. My ultimate aim is to offer policymakers and stakeholders a conceptual and normative map for getting to prevention.

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