DC, June 30, 2005 (ENS): The Senate on Wednesday
approved a one year moratorium prohibiting the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from funding or
accepting studies that intentionally expose humans to
hazardous chemicals used in pesticides.
But the Senate also passed a measure expediting an
EPA regulation that could permit the agency to further
use and fund human pesticide testing, leaving the prospects
for either proposal uncertain.
Both measures were approved as amendments to the appropriations
bill that funds the EPA and other agencies. The appropriations
bill passed late Wednesday by a vote of 60-37.
The House of Representatives approved the moratorium
last month by a unanimous voice vote, but it is unclear
if it will be retained in the final House-Senate conference
Senator Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat and lead
sponsor of the provision, said the EPA needs "a
timeout" before it moves ahead with regulations
to permit the federal agency from using data from studies
that tested the effect of pesticides on humans –
A recent report by Boxer and Congressman Henry Waxman,
a California Democrat, found that the EPA is reviewing
more than 20 human pesticide studies that violated ethical
EPA funding of a Florida study that involved intentionally
dosing children with pesticides – known as CHEERS
– was withdrawn in April after Boxer and Florida
Democratic Senator Bill Nelson threatened to block confirmation
of EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson.
Boxer said, "The moral and ethical issues surrounding
these pesticide experiments are overwhelming –
EPA should never have been considering them to begin
with. I hope they will use this next year to do the
right thing and put in place the strictest standards
on these pesticide experiments as recommended by the
National Academy of Sciences and other widely accepted
The Clinton administration banned the EPA from considering
or approving pesticide testing on humans but the Bush
administration allowed the moratorium to lapse in 2003.
The EPA is currently developing new standards and permitting
testing on a case-by-case basis.
A draft rule of the new standards is "rife with
industry-friendly loopholes, ethical lapses and questionable
scientific method," Boxer said.
Critics of the ban say it is unnecessary and premature.
In response to criticism of the draft rule, EPA officials
said the regulation is far from final and has not been
reviewed by EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson. The official
proposal is expected to be released for public comment
Senator Conrad Burns, a Montana Republican, reminded
fellow senators of a 2004 report by the National Academies
on intentional human dosing with pesticides which found
"that in certain cases the societal benefits of
such studies outweigh the risks."
Burns, the lead author of the Interior and EPA appropriations
bill, proposed a rival amendment - one that calls on
the EPA to further review and complete new standards
on human pesticide studies.
The amendment passed by a vote of 57-40.
Burns said it would be foolish to disregard studies
that have already been completed.
"We cannot just say stop," Burns said. "That
is not fair to the American people, that is not fair
to the American consumer and it is not fair to the folks
that are involved in producing food, fiber and shelter
for this country."
"I understand, nobody likes the idea of human
dosing," Burns said. "If we could get around
it, if there was any sure way we could get around it,
we would. I don't like it either. But nonetheless, as
we talk about this, we are holding up testing on the
world around us. We cannot afford to lose any time or
Boxer said the Burns amendment, which calls on the EPA
to issue its final rule 180 days after the bill is enacted
into law, is "a step back from what is happening
"It would push through a new regulation that has
already been condemned by every major religious organization
in the country," Boxer said.
New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, a Democrat
and cosponsor of the Boxer amendment, said the debate
"is not about whether pesticides can be useful."
Clinton said the draft EPA rule sets a "dangerous
course" and does not ensure that researchers follow
strict ethical and medical guidelines.
"The Environmental Protection Agency must conduct
and rely on safe, ethical tests to protect both the
subjects of the tests and the integrity of the pesticide
safety standards that protect our children," Clinton
Both the Boxer and the Burns amendments are part of
a $26.3 billion bill that includes funding for the EPA,
Interior Department, Forest Service and other land and
The spending bill passed Wednesday night by a vote
of 94-0 - it is $752 million less than last year’s
In recent Federal Register notices, the EPA has proposed
that pesticide companies submit human exposure experiments
when seeking to market new chemicals or broaden the
application of existing ones.
EPA is not, however, requiring the industry to observe
any ethical safeguards, such as informed consent, no
undue risk to participants and exclusion of infants
or other vulnerable populations, according to Public
Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), a
national organization representing workers in natural
"The issue here is not the march of science but
whether standards of basic decency will be applied to
experiments conducted for commercial gain," said
PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, whose organization
has been publicizing ethical concerns raised by the
EPA’s own scientists.
"It is beyond ironic," said Ruch, "that
EPA claims these studies are required to protect human
health while turning its back on the health risks posed
to the troops of human guinea pigs it is creating."
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2005. All Rights