Ethical Considerations

Section Editor

Theoretically, ethics is concerned with moral principles and values. Practically, these principles and values inform a conceptual framework for decision making. Ethically responsible decisions, at individual and group levels, can go far to minimize society's exposure to hazardous agents and, thereby, promote a healthy environment.

Environmental health advocates call for the ethical right of every person to live and work in an environment free of harmful chemicals. Advocates also seek to promote social justice and responsibility by redressing the disproportionate burden of toxic exposures carried by children and by people at the lower socioeconomic margins of local, national, and global communities. The right to a healthy environment can also be extended to wildlife and entire ecosystems.

How can we - whether as individuals, organizations, governments, or corporations - make our decisions align with values and principles that promote and sustain healthy people, communities, and environments? The sections below provide resources on specific topics that we hope will provide useful information as well as inspiration. We recommend beginning with the section on the precautionary principle, which provides a comprehensive framework for preventing pollution and addressing scientific uncertainty.

Ethics in Environmental Health



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Blue jay. Photo from Wikimedia.)

Relevant Topics on Toxipedia


What Is Environmental Health?


  • Conditions that ensure that all living things have the best opportunity to reach and maintain their full genetic potential. (Steven G. Gilbert, 1999)
  • Environmental Health is defined as those factors in the natural, built, and social environment which influence human development, health and well being. (Australian Institute of Environmental Health)
  • Environmental health comprises those aspects of human health, including quality of life, that are determined by physical, chemical, biological, social, and psychosocial factors in the environment. It also refers to the theory and practice of assessing, correcting, controlling, and preventing those factors in the environment that can potentially affect adversely the health of present and future generations. (World Health Organization (WHO) - draft definition developed at a WHO consultation in Sofia, Bulgaria, 1993)
  • Environmental health and protection refers to protection against environmental factors that may adversely impact human health or the ecological balances essential to long-term human health and environmental quality, whether in the natural or man-made environment. (National Environmental Health Association (NEHA))
  • Environmental health comprises those aspects of human health, including quality of life, that are determined by physical, chemical, biological, social and psychosocial factors in the environment. It also refers to the theory and practice of assessing, correcting, controlling and preventing those factors in the environment that can potentially affect adversely the health of present and future generations. (WHO Regional Office for Europe)

For additional definitions, see An Ensemble of Definitions of Environmental Health, developed by the Risk Communication and Education Subcommittee, Environmental Health Policy Committee, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (November 20, 1998)

"If you want to learn about the health of a population, look at the air they breathe, the water they drink, and the places where they live."
- Hippocrates

 

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