Daily News Archive
Panel Says Pesticide Testing on Humans Is Ethical
The issue of human testing has been hotly debated in recent years. In 1996, Congress passed the Food Quality and Protection Act, which tightened safety standards on pesticides. Some chemical manufacturers were critical of the new standards and sponsored or conducted clinical trials to assess human risk from exposure to pesticides and submitted the results to the agency for consideration. In response, an outcry arose from public health and environmental advocates, who urged EPA to reject the results.
In 1998, EPA announced that it would not use the human test studies to inform its policy-making until “many ethical and scientific issues had been resolved.” Later, a majority of a joint subcommittee of EPA's Science Advisory Board and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act Scientific Advisory Panel concluded that human dosing studies could be ethically and scientifically justified under certain circumstances, subject to stringent conditions and oversight. EPA sought a broader scientific review from the National Academies, whose National Research Council released “Intentional Human Dosing Studies for EPA Regulatory Purposes” on February 19.
There are major
discrepancies in the report. "The Academy report calls for the
highest ethical and scientific standards, but undermines its own recommendations
by making the appalling suggestion that it is okay to experiment with
toxins on kids," said Erik D. Olson, a senior attorney at Natural
Resources Defense Council (NRDC). "The report also shockingly says
that federal agencies should accept the results of old, ethically questionable
experiments with toxic chemicals on people unless there is 'clear and
convincing evidence' that they were intended to hurt people or were
otherwise absurdly unethical. We thought that these issues were resolved
50 years ago after the Nuremberg trials, but the chemical industry continues
its campaign to make it acceptable to use human guinea pigs to maximize
their profits. Shame on them."
Beyond concerns in extrapolation is the controversial question of the ethicality of testing hazardous substances on humans. Codes of medical ethics were specifically designed to prevent potentially harmful experiments from being performed on humans. Studies using humans as test subjects "do harm" by the nature of the tests. Pesticides are proven poisons used to kill insects, plants diseases, weeds, rodents, and germs, and administering these toxic materials to people, as part of a controlled experiment, is a practice that can only do harm to the test subjects involved. Regardless of the results, participants are dosed with highly toxic chemicals; there are no possible health benefits to the human test subjects from being exposed to specifically designed poisons.
TAKE ACTION: Contact Mr. Michael Leavitt Leavitt, EPA Administrator, by email, phone: 202-564-4711, or fax: 202-501-1470 to urge EPA to reject pesticide testing on humans. For more information, read Beyond Pesticides’ comments to EPA regarding human testing.