August 14, 1998
Pesticide Companies Using Humans in Lab Studies
According to a recently released report, results from four human
pesticide experiments have been submitted to the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) since 1992, and EPA regulators believe that
more are underway in the U.K. The growing use of human testing to
solve U.S. regulatory problems was revealed in a new report from
the Environmental Working Group, entitled "The English Patients:
Human Experiments and Pesticide Policy."
For decades, U.S. and foreign pesticide manufacturers have been
feeding their products to rats, rabbits, mice, and guinea pigs in
thousands of controlled laboratory studies, all designed to satisfy
government regulatory requirements for chemicals that kill weeds,
insects, rodents and other pests.
Studies on lab animals are still routinely conducted for
pesticides. But in recent years, in a number of experiments that
are raising ethical and scientific questions inside and outside
government, the products are being tested on humans. According to
the report, most of these recent tests have been performed in
England and Scotland.
Last year, Amvac Chemical Corporation, a California pesticide
company, hired a lab in England to conduct three related feeding
trials using people to test the toxicity of dichlorvos, a common
ingredient in pet collars and pest strips. In a 1992 study in
Scotland commissioned by Rhone-Poulenc, the French chemical giant,
volunteer subjects were paid to ingest the extremely toxic
Neither U.S. nor U.K. pesticide guidelines require human studies.
EPA officials informally discourage such studies on ethical and
scientific grounds, refusing even to review study methods
beforehand. EPA, in fact, has no policies or oversight system in
place to insure that humans involved in such experiments are
protected. According to EWG, however, the agency is nonetheless
accepting human experimental studies submitted by pesticide
companies, several of which have been used in at least two recent
cases to weaken EPA regulatory decisions.
The report states that by substituting people for lab animals,
pesticide companies have in effect been able to increase the
amounts of pesticide that can be used legally on crops or detected
on foods, in water or in air. More studies are underway in the
U.K., according to EPA scientists, although they do not know how
many, where they are being conducted or for what pesticides.
Citing ethical and scientific concerns, EWG said it strongly
opposes human experiments that deliberately expose people to
pesticides or other environmental toxins for the purpose of
determining "safe" or "acceptable" levels of pollution for people.
EWG is asking EPA to conduct a comprehensive study of the use of
human subjects in past and recent environmental research, modeled
after the landmark 1995 Presidential Advisory Committee on Human
Radiation Experiments. Once the study is completed, EWG says, EPA
should issue policy and guidelines for public comment on the use of
humans in environmental research. The rules must provide for
thorough monitoring, EWG said, including consideration of special
ethical considerations that distinguish human research on toxic
contaminants from human research for drugs and medicines.
EWG also recommends an immediate moratorium on human
experimentation of the type conducted for dichlorvos, aldicarb and
perhaps other pesticides for purposes of pesticide regulation. The
group also asks EPA to suspend any pesticide approvals if the
agency is unable to affirm that the studies were conducted
according to U.S. ethical standards.
"The English Patients" may be ordered from EWG for US$5.00 each
plus US$3.00 for postage and handling. The report is also available
on the web at www.ewg.org.
Source/Contact: Environmental Working Group, 1718 Connecticut
Avenue, N.W., Suite 600, Washington DC 20009; phone (202) 667-6982;
fax (202) 232-2592; email email@example.com.
Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA)
49 Powell St., Suite 500, San Francisco, California 94102
Phone (415) 981-1771
Fax (415) 981-1991
web site www.panna.org/panna/
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