In 1998 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned testing poisonous chemicals on humans. Now under pressure from the chemical industry, led by Dow Chemical, the Bush administration is moving to endorse such testing and the EPA has begun lifting the ban, despite despite strong opposition from the medical community. According to Dr Joseph Mercola, “Big chemical companies are fans of human research because it encourages less stringent standards. This translates directly into several billion dollars for the pesticide industry, which annually sells nearly 4.5 billion pounds of chemicals – at a profit of more than $6 billion.”
Dow and other chemical companies say human tests are necessary to show their products’ safety, but critics claim pesticides can cause an array of adverse effects in humans ranging from nausea and uncontrollable drooling to muscle tremors, slowed heart rates and even death.
Spoonfeeding Poison by Tennille Tracy, writing in The Village Voice July 9, 2003
It is not sleepin’, it is stone dead, it ‘as ceased to be, it is an ex-beetle!
DOW’S EARLIER STUDIES ON HUMANS
“Chemical manufacturers have conducted testing of insecticides, rodenticides, and fungicides on humans in the past, often with lax testing procedures and misleading consent procedures,” said the Village Voice. “Participants are typically young, healthy adults who are paid to participate in the study.”
Earlier research carried out by Dow on human beings does nothing to create confidence that future experiments will demonstrate anything at all except multinational muscle and the power of the PR dollar to pull the wool over people’s eyes.
In the late 90s Dow tested chlopyrifos on human volunteers in research carried out by MDS Harris Laboratory in Lincoln, Nebraska. Chlorpyrifos is the active ingredient of the Dow pesticides Dursban and Lorsban which were widely used on crops as well as in schools, hospitals and 20 million homes to kill such pests as termites, ticks, cockroaches and fire ants.
Supporters of that research said it was hoped that the tests would show how much of the pesticides (active ingredient) could be ingested without any noticeable harm to people. They tried to create confidence in the harmlessness of the experiments by saying that doses given to the volunteers fell well under a toxic dose.
Critics pointed out that Dow was testing its poisons on healthy adults, whereas Dursban was particularly implicated in causing medical problems for the ill, the old, children and nursing mothers. The research did nothing to address this. Also, testing the active ingredient alone could not prove that the whole formula (which included many other chemical ingredients) was safe.
Dow found its human guinea pigs by advertising in newspapers and on the MDS Harris website. One ad said,”EARN EXTRA MONEY. MAKE A DIFFERENCE BY ASSISTING IN MEDICAL RESEARCH.”
The MDS Harris study claimed that candidates were given health screenings and drug and alcohol tests to establish their medical history and fitness. They were told that the test material was a registered insecticide.
A copy of the informed-consent form was included in the study sent to the EPA. The seven-page form explained that the test involves chlorpyrifos, sketched its effects on the nervous system, outlined how the study would be conducted and warned that there were 15 potential adverse reactions, including headache, dizziness, abdominal cramps, tremors and tightness in the chest.
It also had a pregnancy-related warning: “Although animal studies indicate little or no risk in humans, the possible side effects to a fetus or embryo are unknown.”
Of the 60 people chosen, 30 were men and 30 were women. Slightly more than a third were 18 to 25 years old, the rest in their late 20s to early 50s. Most were nonsmokers.
The volunteers were given pills three or four times a day. Some swallowed a capsule containing chlorpyrifos while others took a placebo. Their vital signs were tracked and urine and blood samples were collected by MDS Harris staff.
For their risk, the volunteers earned $460, which is on a par with compensation received by Bhopal survivors for nearly nineteen years of unrelieved suffering from the poisons of Dow’s 100% subsidiary Union Carbide.
The results were what anyone who had accidentally been exposed to Dursban could have told the so-called scientists: volunteers who swallowed the pesticide capsules reported developing one incident each of nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, shortness of breath, impairment of sensation and chest pain. Those symptoms were possibly or probably related to ingesting the pesticide, the study concluded.
MDS Harris declined to discuss the study, referring questions to its client, Dow Chemical, the principal maker of chlorpyrifos.
All Dow and MDS Harris’s efforts could not stop Dursban from being banned for household use in the United States. Dow was sued by the family of a child who they said had suffered brain damage as a result of Dursban exposure and settled out of court for $10,000,000.
Dow continues to advertise and sell Dursban in India, claiming it is perfectly safe.
(Bhopal.Net acknowledges the contribution of Steve Tvedten and his tireless campaign against pesticides in the preparation of this article.)