Daily News Archive
Industry Money To Collect Missing Data On Children's Pesticide Exposure
The Children's Environmental Exposure Research Study will survey 60 children over two years in Duval County, Florida to collect information on their exposure to pesticides and household chemicals, such as flame retardants and perfluorinated chemicals, a family of substances in products such as Teflon. Paul Gilman, EPA science adviser and assistant administrator, said the money will help the agency conduct "groundbreaking work" on how chemicals are absorbed by infants and children from birth to age three.
According to a
& Engineering News article on October 18, 2004, the researchers
will study children who live in homes with “potentially high pesticide
use.” Their parents, who will receive up to $970 and a free video
camcorder for participating, must agree to routinely spray or have pesticides
sprayed inside their homes during the two-year study period. Chemical
concentrations will be measured in air, dust, and urine samples of the
children, and by analyzing chemicals absorbed in clothing before and
after pesticide applications.
The chemical industry has been pushing the agency to reduce the safety factors it uses for children and missing data. Environmentalists, on the other hand, have long argued that the safety factors may actually be too low due to the unknown and uncalculated effects of mixtures of chemicals and multiple, cumulative and synergistic exposures, and effects of exposure on sensitive population groups such as fetuses, children, farmworker families, the elderly, and the infirm. The high degree of uncertainty associated with health impacts from typical chemical exposures and the severe limitations of EPA risk assessment are leading many communities to embrace the precautionary principle, and thus seek to avoid exposure to toxic chemicals altogether rather than rely on incomplete and unrealistic risk assessments.
"The kind of information the EPA is collecting should already be known to the agency long before it registers these products for use on the market," says Jay Feldman of Beyond Pesticides. He asserts that in announcing this study, the EPA is essentially admitting that pesticide use in the 21st century is one big human experiment. "If you don’t know the exposure level, and you don’t know what toxic outcomes are occurring, then ultimately it’s all still experimental,"says Feldman. In explaining the study, EPA writes, "Currently, the data on very young children's exposures are very limited. Children at these ages have a lot of developmental changes that may affect their exposure to pesticides. Although there have been a number of exposure studies performed for older children, there have been few studies for this age group."
A Washington Post article notes that the study does not mark the first time EPA has accepted chemical industry money to conduct research, but it does represent the most money given so far. Kenneth Cook, president of Environmental Working Group, questioned why an agency with a $572 million research budget needed to accept industry contributions to conduct scientific research. "It simply is not credible that a $7.8 billion agency that employs almost 18,000 people has to go to the chemical industry to get $2 million for a crucial study to see if chemicals hurt kids," he said. EPA maintains that the chemical manufacturers may advise on the project but not impose conditions to their contribution.
TAKE ACTION: If you would like to express your concerns about the study or this issue, contact Beyond Pesticides and get involved.