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EPA Proposes Stronger Protections for Human Testing

(Beyond Pesticides, January 27, 2011) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) expanded protections for humans used as subjects in pesticide studies on January 19, 2011, making it harder for the chemical industry to experiment on people. EPA has proposed dramatic changes in how studies that intentionally expose people to pesticides can be conducted and in what studies it will accept. These proposed changes should force the chemical industry to avoid these types of studies altogether.

EPA’s proposal is posted on the agency’s website and will soon be published in the Federal Register under Docket ID number EPA-HQ-OPP-2010-0785. Following this, the proposal will be open to a 60-day public comment period per a June 17, 2010 settlement agreement reached between EPA and a coalition of public health groups, farm worker advocates and environmental organizations.

In 2006, the coalition, led by Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), filed a lawsuit against EPA, claiming that the agency’s 2006 rule violated a law Congress passed in 2005 requiring strict ethical and scientific protections for pesticide testing on humans. Attorneys with NRDC, Earthjustice, and Farmworker Justice served as legal counsel for the coalition.

Specifically, the 2006 rule followed a temporary ban on human testing put in place by Congress. It also allowed experiments in which people were intentionally dosed with pesticides to assess the chemicals’ toxicity and allowed EPA to use such experiment to set allowable exposure standards. In such experiments, people have been paid to eat or drink pesticides, to enter pesticide vapor “chambers,” and to have pesticides sprayed into their eyes or rubbed onto their skin. The pesticide industry has used such experiments to argue for weaker regulation of harmful chemicals.

“With this new proposal, EPA has cut the incentive for pesticide manufacturers to conduct unethical, and often unscientific, human experiments.” said NRDC Senior Attorney Michael Wall. “While it does not ban human testing outright, it sets the bar high enough that studies on people should not be an attractive option as evidence submitted to EPA. We don’t want to see anyone getting paid to dose themselves with toxic pesticides, but if EPA is going to continue to consider studies that use humans when it regulates pesticides, the research needs to adhere to these stricter rules,” Mr. Wall said.

Human testing, which was stopped by a moratorium in 1998, was reintroduced in 2003 by a court ruling on a pesticide industry suit. Following the reintroduction of human studies, EPA began to develop a rule for such testing. This came despite flaws found in such studies, and took into account industry pressure to approve testing in children, among other allowances. EPA released its final rule in 2006, despite the Congressional Report decrying human testing in 2005. At the time, committee member Rep. Henry Waxman stated, “What we’ve found is that the human pesticide experiments that the Bush Administration intends to use to set federal pesticide policies are rife with ethical and scientific defects.”

Beyond Pesticides rejects human testing as unethical and dangerous to both test participants and agricultural workers exposed to toxic, approved pesticides. For more information on the timeline of human testing regulation, click here.

Source: Earthjustice Press Release


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