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EPA GRUDGINGLY PULLS PLUG ON QUESTIONABLE “CHEERS” STUDY

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Washington, DC — In a defensively worded statement, Stephen Johnson, Acting
Administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the end of
the CHEERS study in which parents were paid to spray pesticides in the rooms occupied
by their infant children under age 3. Johnson did not admit any ethical problems
with the study but concluded without explanation that the study could not “go
forward…in an atmosphere absent of gross misrepresentation and controversy.”
U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Bill Nelson (D-FL) had previously announced
that they would hold Johnson’s confirmation as EPA Administrator unless
he cancelled CHEERS.

While CHEERS (which stands for Children’s Environmental Exposure Research
Study) will no go forward with EPA funding, the exact same study can proceed
with private sponsors, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility
(PEER). In fact, the American Chemistry Council, which represents 135 companies
including pesticide manufacturers, had already pledged $2 million toward the
study’s $9 million overall cost.

In February, EPA published a draft policy that opens the door for accepting
any experiments conducted by pesticide companies and chemical manufacturers
using human subjects without establishing safeguards to ensure that the studies
are conducted ethically and without harm to the subjects. Under this policy,
EPA indefinitely delays ethical rules and, instead, relies on its political
appointees to flag immoral or unsafe practices on a “case-by-case”
basis.

“The reason Stephen Johnson clung so stubbornly to this creepy CHEERS
effort is that it served as the beacon to industry that EPA would welcome similar
experiments,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that the
pesticide industry wants to use human testing to trump animal studies so as
to justify relaxed exposure limits. “Stephen Johnson has become the pesticide
industry’s ‘go-to-guy’ at EPA.”

Under the overall human dosing policy advocated by Johnson, EPA will have no
protections for –

  • Infants, neonates, pregnant women, and prisoners. By contrast, all medical
    and drug testing overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services has
    such safeguards; and
  • Ensuring that companies have obtained informed consent or have not paid
    undue inducements.

As evidenced by the CHEERS fiasco, EPA lacks any independent safety or ethical
review mechanism. In January, after the study had drawn controversy, EPA published
a special Federal Register notice looking for experts in “ethical standards
of research protocols and bioethics” because the agency lacked expertise
in those areas.

To mask its lack of standards, during his confirmation hearing, Johnson claimed
that the Centers for Disease Control had approved CHEERS. But, according to
a January 18, 2005 letter from EPA to Representative Bart Gordon (D-TN), CDC
had not reviewed it.

“EPA should adopt the basic safeguards required by common decency before
they start using human dosing experiments,” Ruch added. “Canceling
CHEERS does not end the argument about the need for ethical standards in human
testing; it merely opens another round in that debate.”

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Read
the statement from Acting EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson

Find
out about EPA’s open door policy on human dosing experiments

For
more information about CHEERS and human testing

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