Campaigners call for immediate halt to EPA study on child pesticide exposure

Environmental campaigners are calling for an immediate end to an EPA study into children's exposure to household pesticides and other chemicals, claiming it raises serious environmental justice and racism concerns by enticing low-income families to expose infants and toddlers to harmful chemicals.

The study, entitled CHEERS (Children's Environmental Exposure Research Study), is designed to learn about levels of pesticides and common household chemicals in the home, and the ways in which young children come into contact with them, according to the EPA.

It will involve following 60 children aged 0 to 3 years, for two years, and will collect information on exposure to such products as phthalates, brominated flame retardants, and perfluorinated chemicals, and the effect they have on development.

However, campaigners are incensed by the fact that the study will pay participants up to US$970 and offers them a free camcorder, free VCR, as well as t-shirts, calendars, bibs, and a framed certificate of appreciation, while being asked to "maintain" their normal pesticide applications throughout their home for two years.

They say that the widespread use of toxic pesticides in the home is a serious threat to children's health and that commonly used products contain ingredients that can affect the nervous system, cause birth defects, increase asthma rates and may cause cancer.

Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment (CCE) said: "CCE believes that this study is unethical and dangerous to infants and children. We are sickened by the fact that the EPA views infants and children as acceptable test subjects. Frankly, we are appalled and horrified by the whole study."

The study solicited participants from six health clinics and three hospitals in Jacksonville, Florida. According to the EPA study, the health clinics "primarily serve individuals with lower incomes" and the three hospitals report 51% of all births were to non-white mothers, with 62% of all mothers having only received an elementary or secondary education.

The selection criteria for the study requires that a participant must spray, or have pesticides sprayed, inside their homes routinely. CCE is concerned that due to the demographic of the participants, they may be easily persuaded to increase their pesticide use to receive monetary or other forms of compensation.

"It has clearly been designed to target lower income families and to endanger the health of their children, making it grossly unethical," said Maureen Dolan Program Coordinator CCE. She questioned the motives of the study which has received US$2 million from the American Chemistry Council which represents 135 companies including pesticide manufacturers.

CCE is now calling for the study to be halted and all unspent money to be allocated to educational outreach projects on the dangers that pesticides pose to children and vulnerable populations.

The EPA insist that children will experience no risks from the study whatsoever.

By David Hopkins



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