Can Pesticide Testing on Humans ever meet Standards for Ethics?

January 17th, 2003

To the Editor,

Begley’s article, (1/17/03) concerning the use of human subjects in pesticide research is indicative of the despicable lengths to which industry will go in order to market these materials, formerly known as “economic poisons” by the industry and EPA.

The very idea that human testing is either legal or ethical is fallacious:

1. Federal law prohibits the industry from claiming that pesticides are safe even when used as directed. It is therefore illegal to tell subjects that the poisons will not cause harm. The tests, involving ingestion of poisons, are also contrary to the Hippocratic oath, if supervised by physicians sworn to “do no harm”.

2. Industry cannot test vulnerable populations such as pregnant women, children, the elderly, the infirm etc., Therefore, precise findings will still not be attained.

3. Research shows the majority of people have pesticide residues in their bodies. Why not study the existing effects of this “criminal trespass” of toxic materials into our bodies rather than purposely introducing them in ways not analogous to real word exposures? Will they also feed the carrier solvents mixed with pesticides in the actual marketed products to subjects?

4. One cannot conclude that no harm has been done to subjects in the absence of observable illness. Oxidative stress on the body from processing out toxins is unnecessary injury by definition. These sophisticated markers of damage will likely not be analyzed.

Ethical research would study how to apply pesticides without any absorption of toxins by innocent bystanders. As for subjects, I suggest that industry executives volunteer to ingest the poisons with their own morning juice. This is product “safety” testing, not medical research.

Categories: Letters

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