The right-to-know is required to provide the public with: toxics use data on chemicals used in facilities, transported through communities, and contained in consumer products; information on occupational exposure to toxic chemicals; and information on some of the most toxic substances, such as lead dioxin in mercury - toxics that persist in the environment for decades.
Communication about risks and hazards to health and the environment is one of the most sensitive and controversial areas of public communication. Providing members of the public with insufficient or inaccurate information about a hazard may deprive them of the opportunity to take precautionary or preventive action and can have serious detrimental consequences - in some cases, literally costing lives. Where timely provision of information could reduce or eliminate a threat to health or the environment, it should be incumbent on those holding such information to make it available forthwith to the potentially affected public.
This strategy features in the framework of Agenda 21 as formulated at UNCED (Rio de Janeiro, 1992), now coordinated by the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development and implemented through national and local authorities.
Paragraphs 40 to 42 of the [Ã…rhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters] (1998) endorses the right to know of European citizens in environmental matters and promotes public participation in policy formulation.
The Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies (CERES), representing business investors, financial institutions and corporations promotes 10 principles of environmental management to its corporate members. The fifth principle states: "We will strive to minimize the environmental, health and safety risks to our employees and the communities in which we operate through safe technologies, facilities and operating procedures, and by being prepared for emergencies.