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Report Shows Government-Industry Conflict in Pesticide Research

(Beyond Pesticides, February 17, 2011) According to a recent investigative report, a company known for conducting scientific research for the pesticide industry has, in an attempt to refute research linking pesticides to Parkinson’s disease, paid a U.S. government agency, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), to prove that certain pesticides are safe. According to the report, the company, Exponent Inc., is a member of CropLife America, a trade group that represents pesticide manufacturers, and also has worked regularly for Syngenta, which makes paraquat, one of the chemicals it is looking prove as safe. Specifically, the company is looking to refute the research which shows that even small amounts of agricultural chemicals, maneb and paraquat, when combined, can raise the risk of Parkinson’s disease.

According to the report, managing scientist of Exponent, Laura McIntosh, PhD, said in an interview that the company donated the money and sought participation at NIOSH to enhance the credibility of its study of maneb and paraquat; they wanted to make their research “bulletproof.”

NIOSH is a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Generally, government agencies are supposed to be unbiased, and federal ethics rules prohibit employees from accepting money from businesses relating to their jobs. Exponent got around this by donating $60,000 to the CDC Foundation, is an independent 501(c)(3) charity, which then passed the money over to NIOSH.

“We have a professional money-laundering facility at the Centers for Disease Control Foundation” quotes James O’Callaghan, PhD in the report. Dr. O’Callaghan is the NIOSH researcher running the government’s part of the project. “They accept projects from anyone on the outside.”

Parkinson’s is a neurodegenerative disease that affects one to two percent of people over the age of 65. Sufferers have tremors, sluggish movement, muscle stiffness, and difficulty with balance. Although medical treatments may improve symptoms, there are none that can slow down or halt the progression of the disease.

Yesterday, we reported that new research shows a link between the use of two pesticides, rotenone and paraquat, and Parkinson’s disease. People who used either pesticide developed Parkinson’s disease approximately 2.5 times more often than non-users. This research supports earlier research demonstrating a link between pesticides and Parkinson’s disease. Pesticides have been long suspected to be tied to Parkinson’s partly because of the high rate of the disease among farmworkers. Scientists have also been aware for many years that both paraquat and rotenone are neurotoxins that, when given to animals, reproduce features of Parkinson’s in the brain. Previous findings show that exposure to pesticides within 500 meters of an individual’s home increases the risk of developing Parkinson’s by 75 percent.

For more information, read Beyond Pesticides’ report “Pesticides Trigger Parkinson’s Disease,” a review of published toxicological and epidemiological studies that link exposure to pesticides, as well as gene-pesticide interactions, to Parkinson’s disease.

Additionally, Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database captures the range of diseases linked to pesticides through epidemiologic studies. The database, which currently contains 383 entries of epidemiologic and laboratory exposure studies, will be continually updated to track the emerging findings and trends.

Source: Investigative Reporting Workshop, American University School of Communication and Politics Daily


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