WASHINGTON -- December 9 -- Green Party leaders strongly criticized an announcement from the Environmental Protection Agency that it would allow experiments using human subjects to test the safety of pesticides without government oversight.
According to a November 30 EPA announcement, the agency will not establish rules to prevent unethical experimentation, but will handle "ethically problematic studies on a case-by-case basis."
"The lack of oversight on the testing of pesticides on human subjects will open door to all kinds of abuses," said Gray Newman, Soil & Water District Commissioner in Mecklenburg, North Carolina and co-chair of the Green Party of the United States. "The new policy gives EPA bureaucrats no guidelines for judging what constitutes 'ethical concerns.' Investigation of abuses will be arbitrary and subject to the political loyalties of EPA appointees and the influence of pesticide lobbies."
Greens noted that the news of the EPA's policy coincides with reports that rat poisoning rates in children have tripled since 2001, when the Bush Administration worked a backroom deal with chemical lobbies to weaken rat poison regulations designed to protect children, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers (Los Angeles Times, Nov. 13, 2004, <http://www.organicconsumers.org/school/ratpoison111704.cfm>).
"The drastic increase in rat poisoning cases involving children shows us what pesticide companies are capable of in the absence of oversight," said Jody Grage Haug, co-chair of the Green Party. "The EPA initially green-lighted an industry-funded project in Jacksonville, Florida, in which parents will be paid to use neurologically harmful pesticides and record their children's reactions to the chemicals on camera. Since many or most of the families who will sign up for the experiment are likely to be low-income, the so-called Children's Environmental Exposure Research Study ['CHEERS'] amounts to a plan to poison poor kids."
The EPA received $2.1 million to fund the CHEERS study from the American Chemistry Council, which includes Dow, Exxon, Monsanto, and other corporations. The study violates ethics standards by exposing the children to health risks, exploiting the financial vulnerability of their families, and permitting industries who have a vested interest in the outcome to fund the study. CHEERS has been put on hold after a public outcry, but has not been canceled.
"Bush Administration and industry officials should be held criminally responsible for harm done to children as a result of these policies," said Starlene Rankin, Lavender Green Caucus delegate to the national party.