Healthcare | August 13, 2005
Douglas Drenkow, "Progressive
Posted in "GordonTalk"
From Left Field"
The biggest problem for us on
the Left is most of us just don't come from a position of
ignorance, greed, hypocrisy, and utter contempt for anyone but
ourselves. So we are constantly caught off-guard by the more
blatant excesses of the Right. Case in point...
What pitiful excuses for human
beings would pay poor families $970 to spray pesticides in their
kids' rooms, give the infants and toddlers (up to age 3)
teething rings and slices of cheese -- things that they figure
the kids would drop on the sprayed floor and then put back into
their mouths -- and then give the whole program -- established
to try to loosen standards on exposures of children to
pesticides -- the acronym "CHEERS" (as emblazoned on
souvenir merchandise, like baby bibs, that the families got to
keep, in addition to the expensive camcorders the families were
to instructed use to record what happened to the kids -- the
families never told to expect any health problems, which by
themselves would not be cause for stopping the study, according
to the protocol)? What would you call the monsters in
charge of such inhuman human experimentation, using babies as
Us. That is, US taxpayers,
through the US Environmental "Protection" Agency.
Part of the same Geo. W. Bush
Administration that damns experimentation with mindless,
formless stem cells as murder most foul.
To be perfectly accurate, the Children's
Environmental Exposure Research Study, conducted in Jeb
Bush's Florida with $2 million in funding from the American
Chemistry Council, representing 135 pesticide and other chemical
companies, has been put on hold, after some US EPA scientists
with a conscience blew the whistle and members of Congress
However, like some madman in a
bad horror flick who just won't die, the CHEERS program -- and
others like it -- could arise again under the new guidelines
for human experimentation now being proposed by the Bush EPA, in
many respects contrary to the protections demanded by a
bipartisan majority in Congress.
According to an internal draft
of the proposals just obtained by the Baltimore
Sun and by the Public
Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), as cited
by the Washington
Post, the new guidelines would for the first time establish
ethical standards by the EPA for toxic chemical experimentation on human
beings; however, the EPA would still lack institutional review
boards (as in medical studies) and would allow loopholes big
enough to drive a chemical tanker truck through:
* The guidelines would allow
human subjects -- including pregnant women, fetuses, and
children (including orphans and wards of the court) -- to be
exposed to toxic chemicals as long as the main purpose of the
experiment was to measure their exposure levels to the chemicals
or the absorption or metabolism of the chemicals in their
bodies, not specifically the toxicity of the chemicals (which,
of course, are toxic, or they wouldn't be tested).
* The guidelines would allow
the use of data from earlier experiments that don't meet the new
ethical standards as long as they met the "ethical
standards prevailing at the time" (Folks, you'd better
finish up those on-going tests before these pesky new rules come
into play: You know, things like the studies you've done in
which you don't tell the subjects what they are being exposed to
* The guidelines would allow
paying large "inducements" of money to subjects who
are poor or prisoners so that they might "volunteer".
* And the guidelines would
allow studies like CHEERS to proceed, because the subjects were
not being exposed to the chemicals "intentionally":
The Bush EPA defends the program by saying that because the
parents were applying the pesticides to the kids' rooms
voluntarily, it was not an "intentional dosing"
happens. Like these guidelines.
I have to confess, that
although I spent the better part of the '80s and '90s
researching and publishing works
on biological controls as alternatives to pesticides (things
like using carefully selected species of stingless
"wasps" to parasitize targeted species of crop-eating
caterpillars), I was unaware of the guidelines (or lack thereof)
regulating human experimentation with pesticides.
fact of the matter is, pesticide manufacturers were pretty
much free to conduct experiments on human beings until President
Clinton imposed a moratorium on such studies in 1998. Although
President Bush initially backed the ban, he lifted it in 2003,
in compliance with a court order in a case brought by chemical
manufacturers. Since then, the Bush EPA has been considering
data from human testing on a "case by case" basis, the
judgments highly questionable in the absence of any standards.
According to a spokesperson for
PEER, "EPA's priority is to make the pesticide industry
happy and to ensure that ethical considerations do not interfere
with business as usual."
And as for the new guidelines?
Well, after final review by the President's Office of Management
and Budget, they will be published in the Federal Register for
90 days of public comment before taking effect in about six
months. But the comments have already started flooding in.
Having led the fight against
human experimentation with pesticides thus far, Senator
Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) has written to the EPA
Administrator that the proposal "fails to adequately ensure
that people, including the most vulnerable among us, are
protected from unethical industry tests in which human subjects
swallow, inhale, are sprayed with, or are otherwise exposed to
toxic pesticides...[the] EPA appears to be heading on a course
at variance with the dictates of Congress, as well as religious
groups, public health and environmental groups that supported
Indeed, the following groups
and individuals have already gone on record (here
as opposing the EPA guidelines as proposed:
* Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.)
* National Resources Defense
* The Environmental Working
* Physicians for Social
* Mount Sinai Center for
Children's Health and the Environment
* The United Farm Workers (UFW
members who handle pesticides regularly as part of their job
want a national
monitoring program in which their blood is tested regularly
for pesticide exposure -- such programs have saved lives in
California and Washington state -- but the Bush EPA has declined
* And various toxicologists,
health experts, and lawyers at the EPA's headquarters and
regional offices -- some of whom request anonymity, in fear of
Of course, on the other side, a
spokesperson for the Bush EPA said that their new proposal
is "a landmark regulation that will extend very rigorous
protections to the public...and adheres to the highest ethical
standards set for federal agencies."
And a spokesperson for Croplife
America, the pesticide industry trade organization and lobbying
group, insists that human testing is done only to increase
safety and has nothing
to do with profits.
You'll excuse me if I ain't
buyin' it. Although all of us may be swallowin' it -- because
the looser the standards on pesticides, the more that all of us
will be breathing, eating, and drinking.
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