As our study of the toxic flame retardant chemical, PBDE, in human breast milk showed, industrial chemicals added to consumer products have a way of getting into human tissue. Worse, we rarely know the health effects of such exposures before these toxics are widely released into the environment.

There’s a principle of sustainability that says producers should prove safety first, before a product goes to market. It’s called the Precautionary Principle. (We welcome your thoughts about this principle here).

The city of of San Francisco, just south of Cascadia, recently passed an important ordinance advancing precaution, according to Saturday’s Chronicle:

The law, which goes by the cumbersome name of Environmentally Preferable Purchasing for Commodities Ordinance, requires city departments to buy products that do as little harm as possible to people and the Earth.

By instantly creating greater demand for products designed for sustainability and human health, the city of San Francisco provided additional incentive for producers to take greater responsibility for their products.

For more about the precautionary principle, including programs in Seattle and Portland, go here. Also see a particularly interesting policy model called REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of CHemicals) being explored in Europe.