EPA & Chemical Industry to Study Effects of Known Toxic Chemicals on Children

Organic Consumers

Study Canceled Due to Public Pressure
see UPDATE third article below

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), led by Bush appointees, is seeking input on a new proposed study in which infants in participating low income families will be monitored for health impacts as they undergo exposure to known toxic chemicals over the course of two years. The study entitled Children’s Environmental Exposure Research Study (CHEERS) will look at how chemicals can be ingested, inhaled or absorbed by children ranging from babies to 3 years old.

For taking part in these studies, each family will receive $970, a free video camera, a T-shirt, and a framed certificate of appreciation.

In October, the EPA received $2.1 million to do the study from the American Chemistry Council, a chemical industry front group that includes members such as Dow, Exxon, and Monsanto. Critics of the research, including some EPA scientists, claim the study's funders guarantee the results will be biased in favor of the chemical industry, at the expense of the health of the impoverished children serving as test subjects.

For 30 years the ACC has known the high level of toxicity of the specific chemicals being "studied" in this project. These are some of the most dangerous known chemicals in household products. The ACC knows full well the intensely negative impacts that these chemicals have on humans, as does the EPA and has lobbied heavily to keep them legal. This is fully documented in study after study and memo after memo and meeting after meeting over three decades.

The trick here is that these products are known to have negative long term health effects. This is a short two year study. In other words, the results of the study are already known… there will be little to no obvious short term negative effects on these children at the end of the two year period. The seemingly positive results of the study will allow the ACC to announce positive "EPA study results" to the public, which will allow the ACC to more effectively lobby congress to weaken regulations on these products even more (thereby increasing profits dramatically). This technique has been exercised by the ACC for decades.

The real negative effects of these types of chemicals come further down the road, when these children could exhibit learning disorders, a propensity for various types of cancer, early puberty/hormonal disruption, and birth defects in their children. Low income families have clearly been targeted in this study. Participants for the study will be chosen from 6 health clinics and three hospitals in Duval County, FL. According to the EPA study proposal, "Although all Duval County citizens are eligible to use the [health care] centers, they primarily serve individuals with lower incomes. In the year 2000, seventy five percent of the users of the clinics for pregnancy issues were at or below the poverty level." (p.23)

These medical facilities report that 51% of their births are to non-white mothers and 62% of mothers have only received an elementary or secondary education. Again, according to the EPA study proposal, "The percentage of births to individuals classified as black in the U.S. Census is higher at these three hospitals than for the County as a whole." (pg.23).

Important Note on Participants of Study: The study layout does not require that participants increase their chemical use, but does mandate that chosen applicants will need to demonstrate that they do regularly use toxic chemicals in and around the home. The concern here is that low income applicants may increase their toxic chemical use for the sake of applying and being eligible for the funding.

Important Note on Suspension of the Study: On November 11th, 2004, the EPA announced suspension of the study's launch until early 2005 for the sake of "final review." The Organic Consumers Association is taking this opportunity to call on the nation's citizens to demand the EPA permanently terminate this abuse of low income children by the chemical industry.

For more information and to take action: www.organnicconsumers.org/epa-alert.htm#pesticide


March 12, 2005

E.P.A. Nominee Supports Testing of Chemicals on Human Subjects

by Gene C. Gerard

President Bush recently nominated Stephen L. Johnson, a 24-year veteran of the Environmental Protection Agency, to be the agency's new administrator. Mr. Johnson has been the acting administrator since January, and prior to that oversaw the EPA office handling pesticides and other toxic substances. In nominating Johnson, Mr. Bush described him as "a talented scientist" and having "good judgment and complete integrity."

Yet his record as the Assistant Administrator for Toxic Substances casts serious doubt on whether he is suited to lead the E.P.A., an agency directly affecting Americans' health and many significant industries, including automobiles and agriculture. During President Bush's first term, Johnson was a strong supporter of pesticide testing on humans.

During President Clinton's administration, the E.P.A. would not consider the results of controversial trials that tested pesticides on people. But after Mr. Bush was elected, Johnson changed the policy to permit consideration, saying, "We are willing to consider that such studies can be useful". However, a panel of scientists and ethicists convened by the E.P.A. in 1998 determined that these types of trials were unethical and scientifically unsuitable to estimate the safety of chemicals.

In 2001, the trials considered by the agency gave paid subjects doses of pesticides hundreds of times greater than levels that E.P.A. officials considered safe for the general public. The agency evaluated three studies that year from Dow Chemicals, Bayer Corporation, and the Gowan Company. The Bayer and Gowan studies were conducted in third-world countries, where volunteers were more readily available, while Dow conducted their study in Nebraska.

In the Dow study, human subjects were given doses four times the level that the E.P.A. knew produced adverse affects in animals. Subjects suffered numbness, headaches, nausea, vomiting and stomach cramps. Dow's doctors determined that these symptoms were "possibly" or "probably" related to the chemical. But in the final analysis of the study, Dow concluded that the pesticide did not produce any symptoms. And the E.P.A. accepted it.

It wasn't surprising then that in October of last year, Johnson strongly supported a study in which infants will be monitored for health impacts as they undergo exposure to toxic chemicals for a two-year period. The Children's Environmental Exposure Research Study (CHEERS), will analyze how chemicals can be ingested, inhaled, or absorbed by children ranging from infants to three year olds. The study will analyze 60 children in Duval County, Florida who are routinely exposed to pesticides in their homes. Yet the E.P.A. acknowledges that pesticide exposure is a risk factor for childhood cancer and the early onset of asthma.

Other aspects of CHEERS are equally troublesome. The participants will be selected from six health clinics and three hospitals in Duval County. The E.P.A. study proposal noted, "Although all Duval County citizens are eligible to use the [health care] centers, they primarily serve individuals with lower incomes. In the year 2000, 75 percent of the users of the clinics for pregnancy issues were at or below the poverty level." The proposal also cited that "The percentage of births to individuals classified as black in the U.S. Census is higher at these three hospitals than for the County as a whole."

The E.P.A. is targeting the poor and African-Americans for the study, presumably in the hope that they will be less informed about the dangers of exposing their children to pesticides, and will therefore continue to expose them over the two-year period. The study actually mandates that parents not be provided information about the proper ways to apply or store pesticides around the home. And the parents cannot be informed of the risks of prolonged or excessive exposure to pesticides. Additionally, the study does not provide guidelines to intervene if the children show signs of developmental delay or register dangerous levels of pesticide exposure in the periodic testing.

Parents receive $970 for participating, but only if they continue over the two-year period. This is a powerful inducement for these impoverished parents to keep exposing their children to pesticides. Even some E.P.A. officials have been troubled by the lack of safeguards to ensure that these parents are not swayed into exposing their children to the chemicals. Troy Pierce, a scientist in the E.P.A.'s Atlanta based pesticides office, wrote to his colleagues last year via e-mail, "This does sound like it goes against everything we recommend at EPA concerning use of (pesticides) related to children. Paying families in Florida to have their homes routinely treated with pesticides is very sad when we at EPA know that (pesticide management) should always be used to protect children."

Additionally, it was disclosed that the American Chemistry Council gave $2.1 million to the E.P.A. to fund CHEERS. The council is comprised of many pesticide manufacturers. These manufacturers have known since the 1970s of the long-term toxicity of the pesticides being tested in the study. But since this study only lasts two years, there will likely be little or no obvious short-term effects. Consequently, this will allow the council to proclaim that the E.P.A. found no side effects, and in turn allow it to lobby Congress to weaken regulations on these chemicals.

Stephen L. Johnson's strong support of pesticide testing on humans is morally and scientifically reprehensible. The testing provides no health benefit to the subjects, or to society at large. But it does help chemical companies who claim that their products are not dangerous. And this is not the type of help that the future head of the E.P.A. should be giving.


The New York Times

Responding to Consumer and Senate Pressure, EPA Finally Drops CHEERS Study

By David D. Kirkpatrick

After warning, EPA drops study on pesticides, kids
Democrats threaten to oppose his confirmation – one more battle in the ongoing war

WASHINGTON – Stephen Johnson, the acting administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, said Friday that he was canceling a study of the effects of pesticides on infants and babies, a day after two Democratic senators said they would block his confirmation if the research continued.

Rich Hood, a spokesman for the agency, acknowledged that Johnson had canceled the test because of the objections to his confirmation.

''They are pretty juxtaposed in time, aren't they?'' Hood said.

''There is clearly a connection.'' But Hood said the opposition was not the only reason for the
cancellation. ''Mr. Johnson said in a meeting on Friday morning that, his confirmation aside, he had come to pose serious questions as to whether or not this was the appropriate thing to do,'' he said.

A recruiting flier for the program, called Children's Environmental Exposure Research Study, or Cheers, offered $970, a free camcorder, a bib and a T-shirt to parents whose infants or babies were exposed to pesticides if the parents completed the two-year study. The requirements for participation were living in Duval County, Fla., having a baby under 3 months old or 9 to 12 months old, and ''spraying pesticides inside your home routinely,'' according to the flier.

The study was being paid for in part by the American Chemistry Council, a chemical company trade group that includes pesticide makers.

In an interview on Friday, Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, one of two Democrats who said they would block the confirmation, said the study amounted to ''using infants in my state as guinea pigs.'' Nelson said the study sought to recruit subjects in a poor neighborhood by offering parents compensation if they continued practices potentially dangerous to their children. ''If you knew smoking caused cancer,'' he said, ''would you want to have a study that said, 'Don't do anything, just keep smoking like you are smoking and we are going to pay you and give you a camcorder so that you can record all this' ?" Financing from the American Chemistry Council added a dangerous potential conflict of interest, Nelson said.

In a statement explaining the cancellation, Johnson said that he had first halted the study last fall "in light of questions about the study design" to conduct an independent review.

But he attributed the cancellation mainly to mischaracterizations about the study's design. Some Democratic critics have portrayed the study as deliberately exposing infants to pesticides.

"Many misrepresentations about the study have been made. EPA senior scientists have briefed me on the impact these misrepresentations have had on the ability to proceed with the study," Johnson said. "EPA must conduct quality, credible research in an atmosphere absent of gross misrepresentation and controversy."

Johnson's confirmation was one of several stalemates in a broader partisan battle over many of President Bush's nominees, including 10 appeals court judges, his selection as commissioner of food and drugs and his nomination of John Bolton, an undersecretary of state, as U.S. envoy to the United Nations.

Johnson's acquiescence, however, is unlikely to alter the broader standoff. Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn., and the Senate majority leader, has threatened that Republicans would vote to change the Senate procedures if Democrats continue to exploit the requirement for 60 votes to close debate on a confirmation.

Frist repeated to reporters this week that Senate Republicans would not yield in their determination to see the president's judicial nominees confirmed.


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