Lawsuit challenges animal testing to avoid child pesticide limits

WASHINGTON, DC, July 13, 2005 (ENS): People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) filed a lawsuit Monday to force the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to stop testing toxic substances on animals and using the results of those tests to indicate that children can be exposed to adult levels of pesticides without harm.

The lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia is a challenge to the EPA’s denial of a rulemaking petition filed jointly by the groups in September 2004.

The petition called on the EPA to stop requiring companies to conduct developmental neurotoxicity (DNT) testing on animals. The groups say the results of those tests are being used as a basis for providing children with less protection from pesticide risks than the law requires.

The 1996 Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) requires that children’s exposure to pesticide residues be 10 times lower than that of adults, but the act contains a loophole. A smaller margin of safety can be used if the EPA has “reasonable certainty” that higher exposure levels will be safe for infants and children.

The plaintiff groups claim that "in defiance" of the intent of the law, the EPA is using this loophole and the results of animal tests as a basis for "large-scale abandonment" of the required protection factor for children.

A single developmental neurotoxicity study can kill upward of 2,500 animals, yet the plaintiff groups allege that the method "has never been properly validated to ensure that test results are even remotely predictive of chemical effects on human children."

In the absence of proper validation, the physicians and animal groups assert, the EPA cannot conclude with “reasonable certainty” that children will suffer no harm from exposure to higher levels of pesticide residues than the Food Quality Protection Act would otherwise allow.

The lawsuit contends that the EPA’s reliance on developmental neurotoxicity testing to permit deviations from the Food Quality Protection Act standard for children’s health and safety is "arbitrary, capricious, and in violation of the law."

“The EPA is killing thousands of animals in tests that are not validated and allowing chemical companies to experiment on children by exposing them to levels of chemicals with no scientific proof that those levels are safe,” says PETA Senior Vice President Mary Beth Sweetland.

“The effect of the EPA’s use of DNT is that children will receive substantially less protection from pesticide residues than if DNT testing had never been carried out,” she said.


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