Section Editor: Maria M. Williams

Theoretically, ethics is concerned with moral principles and values. Practically, these principles and values inform a conceptual framework for decision making. Ethically responsible decisions, at individual and group levels, can go far to minimize society's exposure to hazardous agents and, thereby, promote a healthy environment.

Environmental health advocates call for the ethical right of every person to live and work in an environment free of harmful chemicals. Advocates also seek to promote social justice and responsibility by redressing the disproportionate burden of toxic exposures carried by children and by people at the lower socioeconomic margins of local, national, and global communities. The right to a healthy environment can also be extended to wildlife and entire ecosystems.

How can we - whether as individuals, organizations, governments, or corporations - make our decisions align with values and principles that promote and sustain healthy people, communities, and environments? The sections below provide resources on specific topics that we hope will provide useful information as well as inspiration. We recommend beginning with the section on the precautionary principle, which provides a comprehensive framework for preventing pollution and addressing scientific uncertainty.

Ethics in Environmental Health











(Blue jay. Photo from Wikimedia.)

Relevant Topics on Toxipedia

What Is Environmental Health?

For additional definitions, see An Ensemble of Definitions of Environmental Health, developed by the Risk Communication and Education Subcommittee, Environmental Health Policy Committee, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (November 20, 1998)

"If you want to learn about the health of a population, look at the air they breathe, the water they drink, and the places where they live."
- Hippocrates