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The Precautionary Principle

The precautionary principle might be defined as follows:

“When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically.”

Limerick has a very high register of asthma and pulmonary disease. According to the Limerick Post, there are over 18,000 medicated asthma sufferers in the city. While some of this might be attributed to socio-economic factors, there is a case to be made that eighty years of streaming dirty, gritty emissions across this city has contributed to such high numbers.

Irish Cement don’t have the control systems

Quite simply, Irish Cement don’t have the control systems, safety fail-safes and expert staff to maintain the consistently high temperatures to manage an incinerator of this scale without increased risk of contaminating nearby farms and residential areas. Their ‘appalling’ track record of regular dust storms and blowouts makes a precautionary approach absolutely necessary.

The importance of air quality to community well-being was highlighted in the EPA’s recent State of the Environment Report (2016). While Ireland may enjoy relatively clean air, this general statement cannot be applied to specific local situations. The fact that the cement works is up-wind of Limerick City and the emissions blow directly across densely populated areas of Limerick city and county makes it even more important to apply the precautionary principle. We ask

  • What precautionary measures, if any, should parents, teachers and school principals take?
  • What happens when a spike coincides with school breaks when kids are in the playground?
  • Who is responsible for assessing the health risks of dangerous variability in emissions levels, as opposed to the averages that might mask real hazards?
  • Who is responsible for determining risk thresholds and providing guidance and warnings (or reassurance if appropriate) to the public?