Expediency and human health: The regulation of environmental chromium

Science and Engineering Ethics 4 (2):191-201 (1998)
The complexity of chromium chemistry makes it an ideal example of how the Principle of Expediency, first articulated by sanitary pioneer Earle Phelps, can be used in a standard setting. Expediency, defined by Phelps as “the attempt to reduce the numerical measure of probable harm, or the logical measure of existing hazard, to the lowest level that is practicable and feasible within the limitations of financial resources and engineering skill”, can take on negative connotations unless subject to ethical guidance. In this paper we argue that without ethical principles as a rubric for negotiating environmental regulations, communities run the risk of slipping from the Principle of Expediency as defined by Phelps to the alternative usage of expediency meaning that which does not reflect ethical consideration or concern beyond self-serving interest. Three ethical ideals—justice, mercy and humility—are suggested as values to be considered while resolving regulatory issues related to environmental protection. The Principle of Expediency serves as a working principle, but not as a rigid algorithm, for setting regulatory limits for environmental concentrations of waste products like chromium.
Keywords regulations  chromium  expediency  ethics
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DOI 10.1007/s11948-998-0049-3
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