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Poisoned for Pennies: The Economics of Toxics and Precaution

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Overview

“Cost-benefit analysis” is a term that is used so frequently we rarely stop to think about it. But relying on it can lead to some dubious conclusions, as Frank Ackerman points out in this eye-opening book. For example, some economists have argued that states should encourage—and even subsidize—cigarette smoking by citizens because smoking will shorten life spans and therefore reduce the need and expense of caring for the elderly. How did the economists reach that conclusion? The answer is cost-benefit analysis, Ackerman explains.

 

 

Then in clear, understandable language, he describes an alternative, precautionary approach to making decisions under uncertainty. Once a mere theory, the precautionary principle has now been applied in practice through the European Union’s REACH protocol. Citing major studies, many of which he has directed, he shows that the precautionary approach has not only worked, but has been relatively cheap.

 

 

Poisoned for Pennies shows how the misuse of cost-benefit analysis is impeding efforts to clean up and protect our environment, especially in the case of toxic chemicals. According to Ackerman, conservatives—in elected office, in state and federal regulatory agencies, and in businesses of every size—have been able to successfully argue that environmental clean-up and protection are simply too expensive. But he proves, that is untrue in case after case.

 

Ackerman is already well known for his carefully reasoned attacks on the conventional wisdom about the costs of environmental regulation. This new book, which finds Ackerman ranging from psychological research to risk analysis to the benefits of aggressive pesticide regulation, and from mad cow disease to lead paint, will further his reputation as a thought leader in environmental protection. We can’t afford not to listen to him.

 

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Editorial Reviews

Executive Director, Center for Health, Environment and Justice - Lois Marie Gibbs

"This excellent book is a great tool for people fighting environmental hazards in their communities. Frank Ackerman shows us a valuable common-sense approach to capture the true costs of toxics in our society."
President, The Endocrine Disruption Exchange - Theo Colborn

"Ackerman reveals the fallacies of cost-benefit analysis that are just as diabolical as the fallacies of risk analysis, two constructs designed to protect the bottom line by devaluing the importance of human health. Vast tonnages of toxic chemicals will continue to be dispersed throughout the biosphere, and the pandemic of endocrine driven disorders will continue to increase as long as the U.S. continues to use these criteria to determine the safety of chemicals. Ackerman builds a convincing case for precaution and prevention."
Professor, University of Southern Denmark and Harvard School of Public Health - Philippe Grandjean

"Ackerman convincingly argues that mistakes measured in dollars can often be undone, but avoidable deaths can't. I would argue that ignoring this well-researched book would be a serious mistake that can't easily be undone."
science director, Science and Environmental Health Network - Ted Schettler

"A leader in environmental economics, Ackerman shows how sleights of hand and unsupported assumptions allow the health of many to be sacrificed for the profits of a few. In incisively clear prose, he makes the case for new ways of accounting in this global household that we manage for this and future generations."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781597264006
  • Publisher: Island Press
  • Publication date: 5/28/2008
  • Pages: 328
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Frank Ackerman is the director of the Research and Policy Program at the Global Development and the Environment Institute at Tufts University. He is the author of Why Do We Recycle? (Island Press) and Priceless: On Knowing the Price of Everything and the Value of Nothing (with Lisa Heinzerling). He has conducted research for many environmental groups, including Greenpeace, Riverkeeper, and the Farmworker Justice Fund.

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Table of Contents


Acknowledgments
Introduction
Chapter 1. Pricing the Priceless
Chapter 2. Was Environmental Protection Ever a Good Idea?
Chapter 3. The Unbearable Lightness of Regulatory Costs
Chapter 4. Precaution, Uncertainty, and Dioxin
Chapter 5. The Economics of Atrazine
Chapter 6. Ignoring the Benefits of Pesticides Regulation
Chapter 7. Mad Cows and Computer Models
Chapter 8. Costs of Preventable Childhood Illness
Chapter 9. Phasing Out a Problem Plastic
Chapter 10. The Costs of REACH
Chapter 11. Impacts of REACH on Developing Countries
Chapter 12. How Should the United States Respond to REACH?
Conclusion: Economics and Precautionary Policies
Appendix A: Outline of the Arrow-Hurwicz Analysis
Appendix B: The Fawcett Report on Atrazine Research
Appendix C: How Not to Analyze REACH: The Arthur D. Little Model
Appendix D: U.S. Impacts of REACH: Methodology and Data
Notes
Bibliography
Index
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