In April of 2005, EPA administrator Stephen Johnson tried to institute something called the Children’s Environmental Exposure Research Study (CHEERS – this may be the sickest acronym for something of this type that I’ve ever seen) which allowed chemical companies to pay families for pesticide testing on kids, all while Johnson’s EPA just stood back and watched.
Fortunately, Sens. Barbara Boxer of California and Bill Nelson of Florida (I don’t have to identify their political affiliation, do I?) put a stop to it, at least temporarily, with Nelson promising to block Johnson’s confirmation unless he ended the study.
Well, in September of ’05, the EPA issued new regulations, as noted here (this paragraph is an excerpt)…
The Environmental Protection Agency's new rules on human testing, which the agency said last week would categorically protect children and pregnant women from pesticide testing, include numerous exemptions, such as one that specifically allows testing of children who have been "abused and neglected."I would say that this is positively Dickensian if it weren’t for the fact that Oliver Twist never had to worry about getting sprayed with a known carcinogen.
…within the 30 pages of rules are clear-cut exceptions that permit:
-- Testing of "abused or neglected" children without permission from parents or guardians.
-- "Ethically deficient" human research if it is considered crucial to "protect public health."
-- More than minimal health risk to a subject if there is a "direct benefit" to the child being tested, and the parents or guardians agree.
-- EPA acceptance of overseas industry studies, which often are performed in countries that have minimal or no ethical standards for testing, as long as the tests are not done directly for the EPA.
Well, after still more public outcry, the EPA tried again to get the rules right (as noted today), but as mentioned here (somehow appropriate that this was issued on Friday the 13th):
…the agency did little to respond to the tens of thousands of citizens opposed to the loopholes in the original proposed rule. The EPA responds to the comments by moving the problematic sections of the proposed document (see below) to other parts of the document. One aspect of the final rule that is positive is that the EPA further articulates that the rule bans all intentional dosing.Maybe it’s just me, but I cannot imagine that I’d ever be swayed by the prospect of cash, a nice vacation or a big-screen TV if the tradeoff was that my family and I would be exposed to potentially deadly poisons.
Still, the rule has many loopholes (see below) regarding "observational dosing." Observational dosing can have its benefits when conducted via legitimate methods. But, historically, that has not been the practice of chemical companies seeking to weaken regulations on their products by testing on humans.
As an example, the CHEERS study, which was finally dropped by the EPA in early 2005, would have been an "observational study" on low income minorities in Florida. Unfortunately, the study's constructs were such that it could motivate study participants to expose themselves and their children to higher levels of pesticides and chemicals because of the study payout. The same holds true for the current rule, wherein orphanages and institutions housing mentally handicapped children could receive payout to increase everyday chemical use, prior to applying for a payout study. Of course, the EPA does not condone such behavior, but the new rule also does not disallow it, nor does it set up any sort of detailed criteria that would allow the agency or a review board to assess studies on this level.
At this point, the rule is published and official. We, at the OCA, are disappointed in the EPA for not focusing more on creating stringent standards for observational studies.
So this brings us back to today’s Yahoo News story that I linked to at the beginning.
I’ll tell you what – let’s lock up Johnson and everyone else at the EPA who approved this garbage and threaten to test THEM if they don’t change these regulations to categorically prohibit chemical testing on humans (kids in particular) once and for all.
And I salute Boxer, Solis and Nelson for doing the right thing.