What is CHEERS?

Incentives provided to families who participate in the CHEERS study

Bush Campaign to Allow Human Dosing Experiments
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is paying Florida families who “spray or have pesticides sprayed inside your home routinely” to study their infant children. When agency scientists started to question the ethics of the study, EPA removed the protocol from its website. These scientists contacted PEER for help.

Conducted with funding from the American Chemistry Council, which represents 135 companies including pesticide manufacturers, the Children’s Environmental Exposure Research Study (carrying the deceptively jolly acronym of CHEERS) will monitor developmental changes in babies, from birth to age 3, who are exposed to pesticides in their homes.

Set in Jacksonville, Florida (Duval County), EPA is now recruiting families in public clinics and hospitals with 60 infants and toddlers. Agency scientists not connected with the study are concerned about –

* Financial Incentives. The study makes payments to families totaling $970 for participating throughout the entire two-year period. Families who complete the study also get to keep the camcorder they are provided to record their babies’ behavior. In addition, families are given bibs, t-shirts and other promotional items;

* Lack of Treatment. The study makes no provision for intervening if infants or toddlers show signs of developmental problems or register alarmingly high exposure levels in their urine samples. Instead, families continue in the study so long as researchers are notified when each pesticide application occurs; and

* Lack of Education. Unlike other EPA programs in this area, the study does not require that participants use safe methods to apply or store pesticides around the home. Nor does the study furnish families with information about the risks of prolonged or excessive exposure to pesticides.

EPA selects the infants based upon pesticide residue levels detected in “a surface wipe sample in the primary room where the child spends time.”

When its own scientists began questioning the ethics and value of the study, EPA reacted by removing the study protocol from its website. The agency then began distributing a two-page statement supporting the study that it has since had to retract.

Why Is EPA Doing This?
PEER has learned that there is a stunning corporate agenda behind EPA’s use and now dogged defense of this study:

* Pesticide companies want infant exposure levels so that EPA will be forced to drop its rules requiring that pesticide exposures to small children be nearly ten times more protective;

* EPA wants to use CHEERS as the opening for a new policy on accepting testing on humans to determine pesticide toxicity. The Bush Administration will soon announce a repeal of the Clinton-era rules against testing pesticides on humans.

* Through direct contributions, corporations are now influencing EPA research. The American Chemistry Council, which contributed $2 million to CHEERS, also successfully lobbied to include exposure to flame retardants and other household chemicals in the study. EPA now has 80 similar research agreements with industries, universities and local governments.

PEER is leading the campaign to expose CHEERS. The Bush Administration plans to legalize use of human guinea pigs to test commercial poisons. We are also tracking down each of the corporate contributions to EPA and tracing their influences on public health research.

If you think this is as outrageous as we do, email EPA now.