EPA Backing Down on Testing Dangerous Pesticides on Humans

EPA Backing Down on Testing
Dangerous Pesticides on Humans

E.P.A. Reconsiders Human Tests of Pesticides

NY Times 12/15/01

ASHINGTON, Dec. 14 - The Bush administration is backing off its
earlier inclination to consider the results of experimental tests on
people in regulatory decisions on toxic pesticides.

The Environmental Protection Agency turned today to the National
Academy of Sciences for a recommendation on "whether to accept,
consider or rely on research involving deliberate exposure of human
subjects to toxicants." It asked for an evaluation of the ethical and
scientific issues.

The request means that the agency, and the Bush administration, are
re-evaluating their move to accept the results of such studies, which
has drawn strong criticism from environmentalists. A spokesman for the
agency said it would not accept such results until the academy had
finished its study.

The agency's administrator, Christie Whitman, said in a statement,
"Formulating a policy that appropriately reflects our competing
concerns in this matter will not be easy, and I thank the National
Academy of Sciences for agreeing to assist E.P.A. in evaluating these
complex issues."

She said the agency wanted to reach a decision "in a transparent and
responsible manner."

The move represents at least a temporary victory for
environmentalists, who have said the acceptance by the government of
studies from the pesticide industry that involved paid volunteer human
subjects was unethical and unscientific.

In Depth
White House

The matter became an issue in the Clinton administration, when in 1998
the Environmental Working Group, a research organization here, brought
to light the acceptance of such tests. The agricultural and pesticide
industries favor using human subjects because they yield more precise
measurements of what humans can tolerate than extrapolations from
animal tests.

In a letter to the academy, Stephen L. Johnson, assistant
administrator of the agency, said, "We are particularly concerned
about `third party' studies submitted by regulated entities for the
agency's consideration."

Mr. Johnson said last month that the agency had looked at human tests
from the industry in three or four recent cases.

Richard Wiles, senior vice president of the Environmental Working
Group, said of the move today: "We totally support the idea of the
moratorium. It's a big step forward, but we'll see what the long-term
policy is. We think the moratorium should be the permanent policy."

Mr. Wiles speculated that the administration had backed off because
accepting the results of human studies would be inconsistent with the
administration's opposition to stem- cell research.

"The administration would be in an awkward position if it was against
stem-cell research but for dosing people up directly with pesticides,"
he said. "There is an obvious moral inconsistency that had a lot to do
with this policy."

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