[OPE] Poisoned for Pennies – new book by Frank Ackerman

From: GERALD LEVY (gerald_a_levy@msn.com)
Date: Fri Jun 20 2008 - 10:09:08 EDT

Date: Thu, 19 Jun 2008 10:07:35 -0400
From: GDAEannounce@tufts.edu
Subject: Poisoned for Pennies – new book by Frank Ackerman

Island Press has just published Frank Ackerman’s new book, Poisoned for Pennies: The Economics of Toxics and Precaution. It presents a critique of cost-benefit analysis, describes an alternative, precautionary approach to policy, and applies these ideas to case studies of major environmental policy problems, many of them involving toxic chemicals.


Poisoned for Pennies: The Economics of Toxics and Precaution

By Frank Ackerman
Island Press, 2008;
352 pages, Hardcover, $50.00; Paperback: $25.00

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“Cost-benefit analysis” is a term that is used so frequently we rarely stop to think about it. But relying on it can lead to some dubious conclusions, as Frank Ackerman points out in this eye-opening book. Inventing dollar values for human life and health, endangered species, and fragile ecosystems does not guide us to better policies. Cost-benefit analysis, as practiced today, could have led to damming the Grand Canyon for hydroelectric power, leaving lead in gasoline, and other absurd and harmful decisions.

In clear, understandable language, Ackerman describes an alternative, precautionary approach to making decisions under uncertainty. Once a mere theory, the precautionary principle has now been applied in practice through the European Union’s REACH protocol. Citing major studies, many of which he has directed, he shows that the precautionary approach has not only worked, but has been relatively cheap.

Poisoned for Pennies shows how the misuse of cost-benefit analysis is impeding efforts to clean up and protect our environment, especially in the case of toxic chemicals. According to Ackerman, conservatives—in elected office, in state and federal regulatory agencies, and in businesses of every size—have argued repeatedly that environmental clean-up and protection are simply too expensive. But as he proves, that is untrue in case after case. The book ranges from psychological research to risk analysis to the benefits of aggressive pesticide regulation, and from mad cow disease to vinyl siding. You can’t afford not to read it.

Selected chapters are co-authored by Rachel Massey, Elizabeth A. Stanton, Lisa Heinzerling, Anne-Sofie Andersson, Wendy Johnecke, and Brian Roach. Most chapters are based on research conducted at GDAE during 2003-2007.


Pricing the Priceless
Was Environmental Protection Ever A Good Idea?
The Unbearable Lightness of Regulatory Costs
Precaution, Uncertainty, and Dioxin
The Economics of Atrazine
Ignoring the Benefits of Pesticide Regulation
Mad Cows and Computer Models
Costs of Preventable Childhood Illness
Phasing Out a Problem Plastic
The Costs of REACH
Impacts of REACH on Developing Countries
How Should the United States Respond to REACH?

Frank Ackerman is an economist who has written extensively about the economics of climate change and other environmental problems. His books include Can We Afford the Future? Economics for a Warming World (fall 2008), Poisoned for Pennies: The Economics of Toxics and Precaution (2008), Priceless: On Knowing the Price of Everything and the Value of Nothing (2004), and Why Do We Recycle? Markets, Values, and Public Policy (1997).

Read more about GDAE's research program, Economics for Health and the Environment

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