Wednesday, September 07, 2005

EPA research on pesticides: To Test or not to Test?

No dilemma in bioethics is a simple one. The issue of pesticide research readily demonstrates that even characterizing a debate as “two-sided” is often an oversimplification. Today the EPA announced that it will bar data from pesticide studies involving children and pregnant women. Protecting a vulnerable population from risk seems like a winning position. However, the impact of such a decision may, in the end, put these populations at even greater risk. As “safe” limits of pesticide exposure are studied and regulated, lack of data regarding the effects on children and pregnant women may mean that the legally acceptable levels are not really safe for them at all. But deciding to accept research using children and pregnant women is also not a simple matter. One recently proposed study that would look at the effect of pesticide exposure on young children had to be shut down when claims were made that it was targeting low-income, less-educated families and that the incentives were so high as to be considered coercive. Another criticism of the study was that the two year research time frame was not sufficient to find negative long term health effects such as developmental delays, cancers and puberty/hormonal disruptions. The history of pesticide testing reveals other thorny issues including problems involved in finding control groups when examining data obtained from observing the health outcomes of children who were exposed to pesticides in their natural environments.

1 comment:

marin gillis said...

For those who are interested, there is an online initiative based in California called the Collaborative on Health and the Environment(it is referrred to as CHE, pronounced "chay.") From the www site: "...a nonpartisan partnership of individuals and organizations concerned with the role of the environment in human and ecosystem health…and to raise the level of scientific and public dialogue about the role of environmental contaminants and other environmental factors in many of the common diseases, disorders and conditions of our time." One may join up as a member of the Discussion Group on Asthma and the Environment; the Cancer Working Group; the EMF Discussion Group on Electromagnetic Fields; the Fertility/Early Pregnancy Compromise Working Group; the Learning and Developmental Disabilities Initiative (LDDI) Working Group; the Working Group on Parkinson's Disease and the Environment; and the Science Working Group. You will receive access to a base of scientific articles in your working group area, you may sign up to receive email notices of new research in your working group area, and you will receive invitations to particpate in conference call presentations from leaders in the field to discuss current issues in your working group area. It's free.