Selective Use of The Precautionary Principle

I almost found myself agreeing with our neighbours (across the road from Foxbat) at the Ecologist, which gave me a bit of a shock.

The article in question concerned antimicrobials, and nanosilver in particular, and I have to admit that I’m more likely to be encouraging my kids to eat earthworms than to spraying them with antibacterial agents. As the old adage goes, you have to eat a peck of dirt before you die, and with good reason.

But we also have to ask, yet again: why have we become so frightened of ‘germs’ that we feel the need to go to ever more extreme measures to vanquish them? Are there really people out there so terrified of their washing machine becoming a festering mass of life threatening germs that they feel the need to invest in a nanosilver coated machine? And if there are, wouldn’t an investment in cognitive behavioral therapy be money better spent?

Well said, but then the article is spoiled at the last by the usual mindless invocation of the precautionary principle – which for some reason applies to nanotechnology but doesn’t apply to more obviously foolhardy and downright suicidal activities such as cycling to work in Spitalfields.

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