'CHEERS' Children and Pesticides Debate Widens to Congress

(WASHINGTON, Dec 23) — Three Members of the House of Representatives' Science Committee have added powerful voices to the chorus of criticism against a study of pesticides in children that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plans to undertake with funding from the chemical industry. The Children's Environmental Exposure Research Study, or CHEERS study would measure pesticide and chemical levels in 60 Florida children who would be selected for the study based on heavy pesticide use in their homes. Parents would videotape their children's behavior in the home after using pesticides; for their two-year participation, they would receive $970, the videocamera, a wall certificate, a bib and other items. The study's results would be used to set health standards nationwide.

In two separate letters available at both https://www.ewg.org and http://www.house.gov/science_democrats/releases/04dec02.htm, Representatives Bart Gordon (D-TN), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Mark Udall (D-CO) questioned the science and ethics of the study and the ethics of the study's funding.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has challenged the Agency on this same issue, asking why an Agency with a research budget of over half a billion dollars needs $2 million from the lobbying arm of the makers of the harmful chemicals the EPA is measuring and regulating. EWG and the Science Committee members have raised numerous questions about scientific aspects of the report as well as questions about the level of involvement of the chemical industry in the actual study itself. While EPA asserts the money comes with "no strings attached," the chemical industry's own web site states that their $2 million contribution gives them substantial "leverage" over the project.

The Science Committee members and EWG both ask, What is the true proposed extent of the chemical industry's involvement in this study?

Under pressure from the media and environmental groups, EPA announced on November 10 that it would re-review the study's design. EWG recommends that the study be halted, period.

Richard Wiles, Senior Vice President at EWG, said, "The CHEERS study should be terminated immediately. It is bad science, highly unethical, and will provide no benefits to the children who participate in it, while leaving them potentially at significant health risk."

Wiles added, "It is fundamentally inappropriate for the EPA to accept chemical industry money to study the dangers of the chemical industry's products. Taking this money creates, at minimum, the appearance of a conflict of interest that serves only to undercut EPA's ability to protect the public from dangerous pesticides."

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Read first Letter from Representatives Bart Gordon (D-TN), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Mark Udall (D-CO) (PDF Document)

Read second Letter from Representatives Bart Gordon (D-TN), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Mark Udall (D-CO) (PDF Document)

Read Parents for Nontoxic Alternatives' call to action (PDF document)

Read the Organic Consumers Association's (OCA) appeal here: http://www.organicconsumers.org/bytes/111204.cfm

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