October 29, 2004
Dr. Paul Gilman, Assistant Administrator
Environmental Protection Agency
Ariel Rios Building
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20460
Dear Dr. Gilman:
Thank you for your October 27, 2004 letter discussing the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) $2 million partnership with the chemical industry's lobbying arm, the American Chemistry Council (ACC), in a precedent-setting study of the effects on pesticides in children.
Apparently, ACC does not share your "no strings attached" view of its $2 million payment to participate in your study.
In its Fall 2004 Long-Range Research Initiative Update, (http://www.uslri.org/news.cfm?id=newsletters) the ACC wrote that this "project also contains considerable leverage, in that $2 million of ACC funds add to $7 million of EPA funds" [emphasis added].
It's hard to read that without thinking that the ACC has far more in mind than you do, particularly given the fact that the ACC's reason for existence is to lobby the government — and your agency in particular — on behalf of a powerful, polluting industry. It's an industry with a checkered history and one that has a key member, DuPont, in court now with your agency over the fate of a marquee product.
Your study now appears to be a Trojan horse for the industry's effort to gain acceptance for the morally corrupt practice of paying people to expose themselves and their families to pesticides. It is the accepted norm in science that human beings should not be used as test subjects unless there is a plausible, direct benefit to participants. Instead of paying parents to continue exposing their kids to pesticides and other chemicals, a responsible government would assess initial levels of the toxins in those children, and then help parents reduce the exposures and measure the results. Don't we want people using fewer dangerous pesticides, not continuing their use?
What safeguards, other than a questionnaire, do you have in place so that low-income people won't start using pesticides in order to get the $970 being offered in a difficult economy?
Let us be clear: it's an extremely bad idea to pay people to expose their children to dangerous pesticides, while giving the regulated industry "leverage" by accepting its money to do this.
You should stop — today — this outrageous study, immediately return the pesticide lobby's money, and start afresh on studying the important question of chemicals' health effects on children. Surely the $7,000,000 the Agency is putting into this study, or $120,000 per child, could be redirected to projects that more effectively advance public health protections — and the health of study participants.
Meanwhile, the public has a right to know the role chemical industry lobbyists will play in a precedent-setting study directly affecting their industry's bottom line. Industry representatives will be on the Peer Advisory Committee providing technical advice for the study. Your fact sheet says, "the EPA benefits from external expertise, product development." Two companies that are regular contractors of the chemical industry, Battelle and Aerostar Environmental Services, will conduct the study.
Given all these facts, are you then saying industry representatives will have no contact, consultation, or influence on the:
- study protocol;
- testing in the study;
- gathering of data;
- data analysis and interpretation;
- presentation of the findings;
- method of publicizing and releasing results to the public; and,
- decisions about what parts of the study will be released to the public?
Finally, we think it's important to correct you on several important points:
- The list you sent to show that other "non-profit organizations" have partnered with EPA on research projects doesn't yield any public interest groups, but instead the majority of them are polluting industries you are supposed to watch. It's worth noting that the ACC represents Teflon maker DuPont, which just announced $331 million in quarterly profits — more than the maximum possible fine the EPA is now considering leveling against the company for illegally suppressing health and water pollution research.
- CHEERS is fundamentally different from the type of technology innovation and transfer that was outlined in the Federal Technology Transfer Act (FTTA) as amended. This health study would research the very chemicals made and used by the ACC's paying members, which EPA regulates. ACC is not developing a technology but funding a health study that will affect the health standards its lobbyists are paid to weaken.
- In addition, the FTTA provides for confidentiality and lack of public access for up to five years. How can the EPA engage in a health study with the polluting industry it is supposed to monitor, with the potential that results could be hidden for years under the umbrella of "confidential business information?"
At a time when a policy that weakens clean air laws is called "Clear Skies" and a large-scale logging initiative is called "Healthy Forests," pardon our suspicion about a study of children being exposed to toxic chemicals that is called "CHEERS" and is partly paid for by the very companies whose toxic chemicals end up in the kids.
Kenneth A. Cook