Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=943104
 
 

References (28)



 
 

Citations (1)



 


 



The 1991 Cholera Epidemic in Peru: Not a Case of Precaution Gone Awry


Joel Tickner


University of Massachusetts - Lowell Center for Sustainable Production

Tami Gouveia-Vigeant


Northeast Center for Healthy Communities (NCHC)


Risk Analysis, Vol. 25, No. 3, pp. 495-502, June 2005

Abstract:     
The precautionary principle calls on decisionmakers to take preventive action in light of evidence indicating that there is a potential for harm to public health and the environment, even though the nature and magnitude of harm are not fully understood scientifically. Critics of the precautionary principle frequently argue that unbridled application of the principle leads to unintended damage to health and ecosystems (risk tradeoffs) and that precautious decision making leaves us vulnerable to "false-positive" risks that divert resources away from "real risks." The 1991 cholera epidemic in Peru is often cited as an example of these pitfalls of the precautionary principle. It has been mistakenly argued that application of the precautionary principle caused decisionmakers to stop chlorinating the water supply due to the risks of disinfection byproducts (DBPs), resulting in the epidemic. Through analyses of investigations conducted in the cities of Iquitos and Trujillo, Peru, literature review, and interviews with leading Peruvian infectious disease researchers, we determined that the epidemic was caused by a much more complex set of circumstances, including poor sanitation conditions, poor separation of water and waste streams, and inadequate water treatment and distribution systems. The evidence indicates that no decision was made to stop chlorinating on the basis of DBP concerns and that concerns raised about DBPs masked more important factors limiting expansion of chlorination. In fact, outside of Peru's capital Lima, chlorination of drinking water supplies at the time of the epidemic was limited at best. We conclude that the Peruvian cholera epidemic was not caused by a failure of precaution but rather by an inadequate public health infrastructure unable to control a known risk: that of microbial contamination of water supplies.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 8

Accepted Paper Series


Date posted: November 7, 2006  

Suggested Citation

Tickner, Joel and Gouveia-Vigeant, Tami, The 1991 Cholera Epidemic in Peru: Not a Case of Precaution Gone Awry. Risk Analysis, Vol. 25, No. 3, pp. 495-502, June 2005. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=943104 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1539-6924.2005.00617.x

Contact Information

Joel Tickner (Contact Author)
University of Massachusetts - Lowell Center for Sustainable Production ( email )
One University Avenue
Lowell, MA 01854
United States
Tami Gouveia-Vigeant
Northeast Center for Healthy Communities (NCHC) ( email )
One Canal Street
Lawrence, MA 01840
United States
978-688-2323 (Phone)
978-975-7779 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://www.nc4hc.org/ourstaff.htm
Feedback to SSRN


Paper statistics
Abstract Views: 1,743
Downloads: 13
References:  28
Citations:  1

© 2014 Social Science Electronic Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.  FAQ   Terms of Use   Privacy Policy   Copyright   Contact Us
This page was processed by apollo1 in 0.266 seconds