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Under Pressure, EPA Postpones Children and Pesticides Exposure Study
(Beyond Pesticides, November 10, 2004)
After causing an uproar in the environmental community and from within EPA itself, EPA announced internally yesterday that it will postpone its proposed Children’s Environmental Exposure Research Study until at least Spring 2005.

In light of concerns, the EPA memo stated that the study will be further reviewed by an independent expert panel made up of members from several internal EPA advisory committees in an apparent effort to ensure all interested parties that the study would meet ethical and scientific standards.

The study came under intense fire both by certain EPA staffers (see Daily News) and by environmentalists (see Letter to EPA by Citizens Campaign for the Environment) who questioned the study’s partial funding of $2.1 million by the American Chemical Council (ACC) that one source said would be “informed of the study data every step of the way, and will have a chance to review and comment on any publications that come out of the study prior to publication.” EPA has stated however that the "ACC will not have any ability to manipulate the outcome of the study, and EPA will maintain control over the release and publication of the research results." The study design aimed at children ages 0-3 months and 9-12 months was also challenged for, among other things, lacking safeguards to adequately protect participating families and children should alarming levels of exposure be found.

The public advertising of the study did not disclose any potential hazards of pesticide use around children. Studies show that children living in households where pesticides are used suffer elevated rates of leukemia, brain cancer and soft tissue sarcoma. EPA has also affirmed that children receive 50 per-cent of their lifetime cancer risks in the first two years of life.

The EPA memo defended the study noting that the design had been reviewed by four Institutional Review Boards for the Protection of Human Subjects from the Universities of Florida and North Carolina, Battelle Memorial Institute and Duval County Health Department in Florida.

Critiques of the study cited fundamental issues including environmental racism concerns with a focus on low income recruitment and payment only upon completion of study, the inability to extrapolate the results to a larger population, lack of provisions of intervention should alarming levels of pesticides in children be found and a lack of disclosure of risks to participants.

The memo states that EPA is seeking to fill “critical data gaps in our understanding of children’s exposure to pesticides and chemicals that can be found in typical household environments.” Environmentalists argue that essentially, it comes down to the fact that exposure data is the most basic data necessary and that the agency is registering pesticides without this most basic data and without disclosure of what data it has and does not have, is in itself human testing to the highest degree.

Many argue that the agency should use existing exposure and biomonitoring data and ultimately develop better ways to collect exposure potential without the actual exposure of people, particularly children, given what the agency already knows about the harmfulness of pesticide exposure to children and the risks for chronic life-altering affects.

A recent study undertaken in Canada by the Institute of Public Health in Quebec found chlorphenoxy residues such as 2,4-D and mecoprop, the most widely used class of herbicides, in urine samples of 15 percent of the children, ages 3 to 7, whose parents had recently applied the chemicals. The samples were representative of 15 percent of the 89 children tested. Breakdown products (or metabolites) of organophosphate pesticides were present in 98.7 percent of children’s urine samples.