[Legal Analysis] Emerging Thoughts: A Principled Framework for Regulating GenX as an Emerging Contaminant as an Emerging Contaminant
April 8, 2020
Local, state, and federal regulators are beginning to address “emerging contaminants”—previously unstudied chemicals detected in drinking water supplies that potentially may have severe environmental and human health consequences. In North Carolina, detection of the emerging contaminant GenX, the chemical produced when making nonstick coatings like Teflon, has raised serious questions. Is GenX safe? Should it be regulated and, if so, by whom? What values or rules should guide legislation when there is significant uncertainty over GenX’s short-and long-term effects? While this Comment does not try to assess GenX’s safety, it considers three theoretical frameworks for regulating GenX: the precautionary principle, cost-benefit analysis, and equity-based regulation. The goal is to highlight the difficulty in determining the pathforward with potential regulations while balancingvalid competing concerns. Ultimately, this Comment argues that the best way to regulate GenX draws from each of the three theoretical frameworks.
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