- js reader version
- view hidden posts
- tags and related articles
by Tennille Tracy
Monday, Jul. 14, 2003 at 10:52 AM
The Bush administration is now moving to endorse the testing of noxious and lethal chemicals on human beings.
Since this spring, despite rife opposition from the medical community, the Environmental Protection Agency has quietly begun lifting a 1998 ban on accepting such research. Once the prohibition is gone, which will likely happen next year, chemical companies will have the full support of the federal government to dose healthy young men and women with the latest insecticides, rodenticides, and fungicides.
This marks the second round in a fiery debate over pesticide tests using people. In the late 1990s, a group of doctors and public health advocates noticed that pesticide companies were conducting a growing number of these trials as part of attempts to get government approval. The advocates railed against the EPA and balked at the agency's failure to enforce ethical standards. The "EPA does not routinely require companies who conduct human experiments to . . . follow any ethical protocol," noted a 1998 report from the Environmental Working Group.
Later that year, with criticism mounting, the agency prohibited its offices from using human data in new pesticide registrations. Some companies continued the testing, however, saying it was necessary to determine health risks. But they also preferred that method because they got more favorable readings from dosing people as opposed to lab rats.
The tests appear to defy the very essence of the Hippocratic oath, "First, do no harm." Unlike tests for exploratory vaccines and medicines, pesticide studies offer zero benefits for participants. They're designed to find the level at which concoctions of orange juice and bug spray won't send people crawling toward death, and are considered a glowing success only when nothing happens. Independent researchers say the tests' scientific value is highly suspect.
But there's big money at stake, especially with the EPA considering new restrictions or outright bans on a number of products. On March 31, the Office of Management and Budget, the White House's rule review board, signed off on a rough draft of a new policy that would again allow the EPA to accept the test results.
Doctors, environmentalists, and public health advocates have been fighting the change. When the EPA first took up the idea, medical experts began to pore over a stack of human tests. They found many of the studies were cloaked in claims of valid research but were dominated by practices that belonged in the annals of medical farce. "A reasonable person might conclude that they were specifically designed to fail to show effects of the pesticides," said Dr. Alan Lockwood, a member of Physicians for Social Responsibility and a neurology professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo.
Vermin killers have a nasty history. In 1934, Nazi Germany whipped up the first batch of pesticides—organophosphates, in scientific parlance—for use as a chemical weapon. Although the toxic soup never made it to the front lines, I.G. Farben, the company that manufactured it, found it could be marketed as bug sprays and rodent zappers.
Today, big chemical companies are fans of human research because it encourages less stringent standards. With data from lab animals, the EPA assumes the predicted hazards for humans would be greater by a factor of 10. It's called the "inter-species rule," adopted by Congress to account for potential differences between reactions in, say, a two-year-old child and a mature lab rat. Testing on humans lets a company duck the automatic increase.
That translates directly into several billion dollars for the pesticide industry, which annually sells nearly 4.5 billion pounds of chemicals—at a profit of more than billion. Manufacturers have an outsized financial incentive to push for testing on humans, warned Dr. Lynn Goldman, the EPA's pesticide director under President Clinton and now a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "EPA must of course be mindful at all times of the test sponsors' interests in performing tests and, of course, of the almost overwhelming economic incentives that companies have to find ways to market more of their products," she said in January, testifying before the National Academy of Sciences.
Critics say the companies give sparse attention to decent testing procedures and that nearly every aspect of the testing seems driven by the need to get EPA approval.
Take, for example, a 1999 test conducted by the Lincoln, Nebraska-based MDS Harris Laboratory. A handful of subjects were administered Dow Chemical's chlorpyrifos, a direct descendant of Hitler's nerve agents. MDS Harris had recruited the group of healthy young men and women by assuring them their health would be preserved, and by handing out juicy compensation checks. They were told in consent agreements that low doses of chlorpyrifos "have been shown to improve performance on numerous tests of mental function," implying that the chemical could propel them into a new realm of genius. "The consent process was inadequate, deceptive, or both," Dr. Lockwood said. "This makes it sound like chlorpyrifos is good for you and may make you smarter—a clear deception."
Nevertheless, when none of them died, fainted, or delivered farewell speeches while clutching their hearts in agony, Dow submitted a glowing report of the pesticide to the EPA and eagerly awaited registration approval. Just one year later, on June 8, 2000, the EPA determined that chlorpyrifos, a widely employed pesticide, posed an "unreasonable threat" and said residential uses should be expeditiously restricted.
In another experiment, conducted in 1997 at the Central Toxicology Laboratory, researchers gave oral doses of dichlorvos, a common insecticide, to a group of six young men. When four of them suffered a dangerous drop in vital enzyme levels, they had to withdraw from the test. With only two subjects able to complete the doses, the Central Toxicology Laboratory announced that "no symptoms or adverse effects . . . were reported." They skirted the fact that two-thirds of the participants had to drop out and effectively asserted that the results derived from two people adequately reflected the potential harm to 266 million U.S. citizens.
And there is potential harm. Pesticides eat away at an enzyme called cholinesterase, which plays a key role in all physical movement. It sweeps away chemical debris between nerve cells, allowing those cells to fire up to 1,000 electric impulses to each other every second. Pesticides break down cholinesterase, leaving millions of chemical messages to clog the works. In mild cases, this leads to nausea, sweating, uncontrollable drooling, headaches, and vomiting. In severe cases, it causes muscular tremors, abnormally low blood pressure, loss of bowel functions, slowed heart rates, and even death.
But test groups rarely get that sick. And that's no surprise, considering their size and make-up. They're usually limited to between six and 50 people, typically young and healthy adults who are paid anywhere from 0 to ,000. The studies are advertised in local newspapers or on college campuses, specifically targeted to attract people from low-income or minority communities.
Pesticide companies insist that trying out their wares on you and your neighbors allows idiosyncratic human reactions to surface. "These safety factors are necessary," said Ray McAllister, vice president for science and regulatory affairs for CropLife America, a lobbying group representing 41 corporations, including Dow, DuPont, and Monsanto. "If we don't know how humans react, then we can't be confident of safety."
The industry is lining the campaign coffers on Capitol Hill. In the five years since the EPA stopped looking at human research, the Center for Responsive Politics reports, companies providing agricultural services and products donated more than million to political campaigns, almost 70 percent of which went to Republicans.
Report this post as:
LATEST COMMENTS ABOUT THIS ARTICLE
Listed below are the 10 latest comments of 2 posted about this article.
These comments are anonymously submitted by the website visitors.
GUIDE TO REBEL CITY LOS ANGELES AVAILABLE
lausd whistle blower
Help KCET and UCLA identify 60s-70s Chicano images
UCLA Luskin: Casting Youth Justice in a Different Light
Change Links April 2018
Nuclear Shutdown News March 2018
Join The Protest Rally in Glendale on April 10, 2018!
Join The Protest Rally in Glendale on April 10, 2018!
Spring 2018 National Immigrant Solidarity Network News Alert!
Anti-Eviction Mapping Project Shows Shocking Eviction Trends in L.A.
Steve Mnuchin video at UCLA released
Actress and Philanthropist Tanna Frederick Hosts Project Save Our Surf Beach Clean Ups
After Being Told He's 'Full of Sh*t' at School Event, Mnuchin Demands UCLA Suppress Video
Resolution of the Rent Strike in Boyle Heights
What Big Brother Knows About You and What You Can Do About It
Step Up As LAPD Chief Charlie Beck Steps Down
Our House Grief Support Center Hosts 9th Annual Run For Hope, April 29
Don’t let this LA County Probation Department overhaul proposal sit on the shelf
Echo Park Residents Sue LA Over Controversial Development
Former Signal Hill police officer pleads guilty in road-rage incident in Irvine
Calif. Police Accused of 'Collusion' With Neo-Nazis After Release of Court Documents
Center for the Study of Political Graphics exhibit on Police Abuse posters
City Agrees to Settle Lawsuit Claiming Pasadena Police Officer Had His Sister Falsely Arre
Professor's Study Highlights Health Risks of Urban Oil Drilling
Claims paid involving Pasadena Police Department 2014 to present
Pasadenans - get your license plate reader records from police
LA Times Homicide Report
More Local News...
What does the Quran Say About Islamic Dress??
Biodiversité ou la nature privatisée
The Market is a Universal Totalitarian Religion
Book Available about Hispanics and US Civil War by National Park Service
The Shortwave Report 04/20/18 Listen Globally!
The Republican 'Prolife' Party Is the Party of War, Execution, and Bear Cub Murder
Paraphysique de la dictature étatique
Book Review: "The New Bonapartists"
The West Must Take the First Steps to Russia
Théorie générale de la révolution ou hommage à feu Mikhaïl Bakounine
The Shortwave Report 04/13/18 Listen Globally!
“Lost in a Dream” Singing Competition Winner to Be Chosen on April 15 for ,000 Prize!
The World Dependent on Central Banks
Ohio Governor Race: Dennis Kucinich & Richard Cordray Run Against Mike DeWine
March 2018 Honduras Coup Again Update
Apologie du zadisme insurrectionnel
ICE contract with license plate reader company
Black Portraiture(S) IV: The Color of Silence...Cuba No...Cambridge Yes
Prohibiting Micro-Second Betting on the Exchanges
Prosecutors treat Muslims harsher than non-Muslims for the same crimes
Amy Goodman interview on cell phone safety
Mesa, Arizona police officer kills unarmed white man
Israeli leaders should be prosecuted for war crimes
Paraphysique de l'autorité
Two Podcasts on fbi corruption
Fbi assassins assault & try to kill DAVID ATKINS
More Breaking News...