Abstract

This article illustrates that in managing the risks and responding to the harms of environmental contamination, there has been a recent embrace of strategies involving risk avoidance in lieu of risk reduction. Risk reduction strategies aim to clean up, limit, or prevent environmental contamination in the first place. Risk avoidance strategies, by contrast, leave contamination unabated. Risk avoidance strategies address the harms of contamination by requiring those whose circumstances or lifeways leave them exposed to alter their ways, thereby "avoiding" the risk. A recent turn to risk avoidance is problematic on several scores and particularly troubling from the perspective of environmental justice. Moreover, the claimed cost savings of greater reliance on risk avoidance are likely to be overstated and realized only in the short term. The article demonstrates how the premise that risk avoidance can actually provide the "same amount" of human health protection as strategies that require risk reduction is in many instances highly questionable.

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