|Pesticide Action Network Updates Service (PANUPS)
See PANUPS updates service, for complete information. U.S. EPA to Allow Human Pesticide Tests
December 14, 2001
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will accept data from pesticide tests that use human subjects, an EPA administrator announced in late November. The announcement–made at a meeting of the nation’s largest pesticide industry lobbying group, the American Crop Protection Association–reverses a moratorium on human tests established during the Clinton administration. Although the administrator said that a formal EPA policy for accepting such tests has not been finalized, he admitted that the EPA has recently reviewed data from studies involving human subjects carried out by pesticide companies.
In 1998, a scientific advisory panel of doctors, ethicists and scientists brought together by the EPA concluded that human testing of pesticides “to facilitate the interests of industry or of agriculture” is unjustifiable. Human testing is acceptable only if it “promise[s] reasonable health benefits to the individual or society at large,” says the panel’s February 2000 report.
The design of the human tests is both scientifically and ethically flawed, critics say. Dr. Herbert Needleman, a pediatrician and psychiatrist at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and one of the members of the Clinton administration scientific advisory panel, says that the human tests “have very small numbers of subjects and look at very crude outcomes and come to the conclusion that no health effects were seen.” Myers explains that “good science would mean getting more people to swallow more pesticide pills over a longer period of time. To conduct really good scientific experiments and get the best data, you’d have to kill people. That’s the fallacy of trying to keep this controversy in the realm of ‘science’ rather than ethics.”
Dr. Needleman believes that the legitimation of human studies “is a power move on the part of pesticide manufacturers, and the EPA administrator and others rolled over.” Goldman, who is now a professor of environmental sciences at Johns Hopkins University, points out that “for industry, there is an enormous amount of money in the balance; one study can make the difference of tens of millions of dollars.”
UPDATE: Less than three weeks after EPA’s decision to accept human pesticide tests, the agency announced a temporary moratorium on human testing pending recommendations of an ethical and scientific review by the National Academy of Sciences. While critics of human testing welcomed the moratorium, the president of the American Crop Protection Association said that some pesticide companies may sue the EPA to force them to consider human tests.
Sources: Los Angeles Times, November 27, 2001; Associated Press, November 27, 2001; New York Times, November 28, 2001, December 15, 2001; Washington Post, November 29, 2001, December 15, 2001; Trials of War Criminals Before the Nuremburg Military Tribunals under Control Council Law, No. 10, Vol. 2. Nancy Myers, personal communication, December 12, 2001.
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