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The Assembly notes that the number of individuals actually suffering from diseases linked to the environment is regularly growing, in an increasingly disturbing manner. Stressing the need for urgent practical action to curb the increase in known or emerging risks, the Assembly asks the Committee of Ministers to invite member and observer states of the Council of Europe to: This should be reflected in the national public health document, which each member state should submit to the Council of Europe Secretariat;.

This will enable the public to make up their own minds about the impact of the environment on their health, and make choices to improve their own health;. The Assembly asks the Committee of Ministers to instruct a committee of experts to elaborate a draft recommendation based on the elements above. Council of Europe. National parliaments.

Children, Climate Change, and the Intergenerational Right to a Viable Future

International partners. The length of time to change policies related to donation of blood from men having sex with men in many jurisdictions is illustrative of this dilemma [22] , [23]. To overcome this obstacle, we recommend that threats that qualify for the use of precaution are brought through a separate policy process from policy decisions made on more definitive evidence.

A distinctive policy process could funnel decisions through a less onerous process in order to be changed when new evidence becomes available. This approach facilitated the process of revising and ultimately removing the recommendation as more evidence became available. Such an approach would guard against the accumulation of measures with limited scientific basis. What steps can scientific journals take to navigate the current public health policy-making environment?

Even if the regulatory process is changed to be more responsive to new evidence that negates existing precautionary policies, there is still the risk that the communication of preliminary evidence may have a lasting impact, particularly where there are advocacy groups that support and disseminate the evidence. These new realities, however, should not discourage the publication of provocative novel findings. Journals have already taken several steps to correct or clarify scientific evidence.

Some of these steps have included encouraging authors to add balanced information to papers, permitting post-publication comments on their websites, as well as issuing expressions of concern and retractions through these media. The National Library of Medicine has similarly enabled authors to comment and discuss publications through the creation of PubMed Commons. To supplement these, we would also suggest some further initiatives at and prior to publication for articles of potentially high policy impact and public interest.

High policy impact publications include those that present findings relevant to the environment or public health, domains influenced by the precautionary principle.

High public interest articles that may be rapidly disseminated among advocacy groups include those that concern areas where the public perception of risk associated with the topic is high, i. Some journals commission editorials and commentaries to contextualize research findings that might cause alarm. We recommend wider uptake of this practice. These editorials could clarify both the scientific context of the article's findings and the policy context of the research. In a structured manner, these could state where on the scale of scientific certainty this research falls, which findings are preliminary and require more evidence and which findings are substantive enough to warrant action, and what future research is required to clarify any uncertainty.

This is particularly important because standard methods for evaluating evidence would likely not apply as the evidence on which precautionary decisions are being made is often based on a basic science study, a case report, or a case series. The potential transfusion transmission of XMRV has highlighted novel challenges pertaining to policy making and the publication of preliminary scientific evidence on matters of public health.

Summary Points

In particular, it demonstrates challenges in an era in which decision making concerning public health is increasingly influenced by the precautionary principle, and where scientific findings linked to areas of public interest are rapidly disseminated via the Internet and social media. Summary Points The rapid response to XMRV as a novel pathogen has highlighted some challenges pertaining to policy making and editorial responsibilities in a policy environment influenced by the precautionary principle.

Once published, preliminary scientific evidence can result in rapid changes in policy and can undergo widespread dissemination via both the Internet and social media. The impact on policy and the propagation of the initial scientific information may not cease if the evidence is disproven and retracted from peer-reviewed journals. Regulators should consider the use of frameworks to guide the use of the precautionary principle and a separate, more flexible policy stream for precautionary policies. Editors should continue to develop strategies to place preliminary scientific evidence of potential public health relevance in context for the public and for policy makers.

XMRV as a Potential Transfusion-Transmissible Infection The story of how XMRV was first identified as a potential transfusion-transmissible infection and the subsequent rejection of this hypothesis has been well documented [1] — [6]. Blood Donor Policies The theory that individuals with CFS might harbor XMRV and that the virus could be transfusion transmissible prompted some blood operators to take a precautionary approach and implement additional donor deferral strategies to protect against this threat Table 1.

Download: PPT. Table 1. Science, Social Media, and the Precautionary Principle XMRV highlights a new dilemma relating to the publication of preliminary evidence in matters of public health concern.

Recommendations The experience with XMRV, like the past experiences with vaccines and autism, illustrates some of the emerging challenges related to the publication of early evidence in areas of public health concern. Figure 1. Recommendations for policy makers and journal editors. The Regulatory Process The use of frameworks to guide the initial and ongoing use of the precautionary principle by policy makers is a useful first step to address this challenge [12] , [15] , [21].

Academic Journals What steps can scientific journals take to navigate the current public health policy-making environment? Conclusion The potential transfusion transmission of XMRV has highlighted novel challenges pertaining to policy making and the publication of preliminary scientific evidence on matters of public health.

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References 1. Transfus Med — View Article Google Scholar 2. View Article Google Scholar 3. Lancet e27— View Article Google Scholar 4. Karafin MS, Stramer SL The scientific method at work: xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus is neither a cause of chronic fatigue syndrome nor a threat to the blood supply. Transfusion — Greenfields site : The opposite of brownfield sites, it is typically land that has been used only for agricultural use, or forested area, that has never been developed for residential, commercial or industrial use 4.

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The Use of Preliminary Scientific Evidence in Public Health: A Case Study of XMRV

They are water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone, CFCs, and hydrofluorocarbons. Half-life : the time it takes for any pollutant usually refers to radioactive material but also includes other toxic material to halve its effect on the environment. This can include corrosive, toxic, explosive, flammable, or chemical reactants.

Hazardous Waste : Similar to above, but waste material produced as a byproduct of any commercial or industrial activity that has the same dangerous attributes. As it is a waste, it serves no purpose on its own. Indigenous species : A species of flora or fauna recognized as being native to a certain area.

Indoor air pollution : coming under OSHA rather than EPA, there are laws in place to ensure that employees work in a clean and safe environment with good ventilation. Indoor air is anything contained with a building. Indoor air pollution is any chemical or other substances contributing to an imbalance that could affect the health of the building's inhabitants. Invasive species : A species of flora or fauna not native to a certain area, but one that has colonized it - usually presenting problems for native wildlife.

Invasive species are sometimes subject to active control and deliberate removal. Landfill : An area of land set aside for the disposal of waste - usually commercial or residential of non-toxic waste although in the case of where they might contain such, treatment may be required to prevent pollution. Margin of Safety : The designated upper limit of exposure to a potentially harmful substance before it becomes harmful. This can apply to human health and to environmental exposure. Material Safety Data Sheet : An international standard form containing information relevant to a substance's toxicity, hazardousness, and potential environmental damage.

It also explains proper protection equipment and what to do in the result of exposure First Aid. It prohibits the discharge of polluting chemicals into US waters unless a special permit is granted. They use a hazard ranking system and a fund is made available for remediation. National Response Team NRT : This is a team from 13 different Federal agencies that come together to coordinate federal responses to incidents such as natural disasters, oil spills, significant pollution emission, chemical releases and so on.

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Ozone layer : A protective layer of gas in the upper atmosphere that absorbs the sun's must harmful radiation. Its depletion was one of the major problems of the s. Pollutant : A substance or material introduced into an environment that has negative or harmful effects to the ecology or specific biological species, or one that reduces the efficiency or safety of a resource. Radiation : The transmission of energy through space. It can be ionizing or non-ionizing. The former is powerful enough to break bonds x-rays the latter is not radio frequency. Remediation : The process of removing toxic materials from an environment and the attempt to restore it to a previous state.

This can be anything from asbestos , lead and other heavy metals, and radioactive isotopes. Risk Assessment : An official investigation, usually required legally, to examine risk exposure and potential consequences under any scenario. Sanctions : This legal term also exists outside of environmental law and it means the same thing.

It's the application of measures against a polluter or other entity or person who breaks environmental law. Often, measures will include a ban on government contracts. Sewage : Solid and liquid waste removed from residential properties, typically human waste but also includes anything that uses water to take it away. Smog is not natural, It is the direct result of emissions from industrial processes.

Vulnerable Zone : During a chemical leak, it will be necessary to track its most likely path based on meteorological data. The vulnerable zone is the area where the airborne pollutant or chemical might because problematic. Water budget : What is the difference between the water stock and the water used? Increasingly important in drought-hit areas, it's important to monitor and manage water supplies to ensure we don't use more than is available.

It's higher during wet periods and lower during drier spells. Wetlands : A wetland is an area of land that has a high water table or one that is typically flooded for most of the time.

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It can be tidal or non-tidal and includes marshes and floodplains. The Everglades National Park is one such example. They are often a haven for wildlife and subject to protections to preserve their unique profile.

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There are many areas under the umbrella of environmental law. All have one thing in common - the protection of ecology and the health of the environment.

The first and most visible way in which the public is aware of and engaged with environmental law is pollution. Some of the world's earliest environmental laws concern the protection of our environment from polluting materials and, by extension, aim to improve public health.