It appears that the Bush Administration had a great deal of help from the pesticide and chemical industries when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed rules authorizing experiments on humans with pesticides and other chemicals. Notes from meetings with pesticide industry lobbyists, which raise some interesting questions, have been made public by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), a Washington, D.C. public interest group. Industry requests for exemptions allowing some chemical testing on children, along with other requested provisions, were incorporated into the human testing rule that was ultimately adopted on January 26th.
According to PEER, at the August 9, 2005 meeting, held inside the President’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB), representatives of the pesticide trade association, Crop Life America, as well as Bayer Crop Life Science, met with OMB and EPA officials. Also attending was a former top EPA official, James Aidala, who now acts a lobbyist at a law firm representing chemical companies. The meeting notes detail industry concerns about the text of a proposed rule that the Bush Administration first made public a month later on September 12th. One could conclude from the meeting notes that the pesticide industry’s top objective was getting access to children for experiments.
The deadline for EPA final approval for a controversial class of pesticides derived from nerve agents called organophosphates was August 3rd. This appeared to be a top industry priority. At press time, we hadn’t heard whether approval was given, but I suspect it was. Interestingly, the human testing rule adopted by EPA earlier this year contains the loopholes advocated at the OMB meeting for exposing children to pesticides. These include testing on workers and exposures unconnected with the approval process for new pesticides or new uses for existing agents. In addition, the rule broadly allows dosing experiments on infants and pregnant women using non-pesticide chemicals. PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch made this observation:
Using human beings as guinea pigs to test the toxic strength of commercial poisons has become a central regulatory strategy under the Bush Administration.
Although there is nothing inherently wrong with government officials meeting with representatives of a regulated industry, it is important that other views be heard at similar meetings and seriously considered. I also believe that all meetings of this kind should be made public and not hidden from view. It certainly appears that testing of the sort described above should be a matter of public interest.
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