Precaution Can Kill: Chemical Benefits and Regulatory Risks: News Releases: The Independent Institute

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News Release
May 15, 2020

Precaution Can Kill: Chemical Benefits and Regulatory Risks
Why Chemical ‘Safety’ Is Often Bad for Your Health

(Oakland, CA) When the nation needs innovation and rapid response, the “precautionary principle”—the rationale for over-regulation or even the outright banning of chemicals due to fears of unsubstantiated hazards—can cost many lives.

So say Mr. Kevin Gomez, Dr. Diana Thomas, Dr. Ryan Yonk, the authors of a startling new policy briefing published today by the Independent Institute: Precaution Can Kill: Chemical Benefits and Regulatory Risks.

And it is especially true in a pandemic.

On March 29, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finally gave emergency approval for two anti-malaria drugs to treat COVID-19. The drugs—hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine—have been used for decades and have saved millions of lives.

When reports came out that these drugs had been effective in COVID-19 patients, pharmaceutical companies quickly jumped into action. Bayer and Teva donated several million doses. Yet the FDA did not act for another 10 days. Why the delay? The World Health Organization and other entities had warned against “untested treatments.”

Governments may well deploy the precautionary principle with the best of intentions. But almost invariably such unwarranted bureaucratic risk-aversion hurts people. It can even kill them.

How many have died, for instance, because they could not use anti-malarial drugs to treat COVID-19? How many became infected due to the FDA’s overly-cautious response to the sterilizing of face masks?

This hard-hitting report details the problems with the precautionary principle and recommends a much-needed airing of market-oriented, efficient alternatives for the practices that use chemicals, medical or otherwise. In this time of pandemic, when all options must be on the table, this new report is required reading.

To interview the Briefing authors, contact [email protected], or 510-635-3690

CREDENTIALS: Research Fellows at the Independent Institute, Dr. Diana W. Thomas is associate professor of economics and director for the Institute for Economic Inquiry (Heider College of Business, Creighton University), where Kevin D. Gomez is also the program manager. Dr. Ryan M. Yonk is undergraduate program director for the Center for the Study of Public Choice and Private Enterprise and lecturer in economics in the Department of Agribusiness and Applied Economics, North Dakota State University.

100 Swan Way, Oakland, CA 94621-1428

The Independent Institute is a non-profit research and educational organization that promotes the power of independent thinking to boldly advance peaceful, prosperous, and free societies grounded in a commitment to human worth and dignity. For more information, visit


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