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10 April 2014 11:44 am ,
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The Pyrenean ibex, an impressive mountain goat that lived in the central Pyrenees in Spain, went extinct in 2000. But a...
Tight budgets are forcing NASA to consider turning off one or more planetary science projects that have completed their...
Ebola is not a stranger to West Africa—an outbreak in the 1990s killed chimpanzees and sickened one researcher. But the...
In an as-yet-unpublished report, an international panel of geoscientists has concluded that a pair of deadly...
Tropical disease experts tried and failed before to eradicate yaws, a rare disfiguring disease of poor countries. Now,...
Since 2002, researchers have reported that agricultural communities in the hot and humid Pacific Coast of Central...
Balkan endemic kidney disease surfaced in the 1950s and for decades defied attempts to finger the cause. It occurred...
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The Ethics of Eating Bug Spray
17 December 2001 (All day)
Faced with a barrage of criticism over studies in which companies dose people with pesticides to determine chemical toxicity, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is seeking outside advice. On 14 December, the agency asked the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to help it decide whether it should accept these controversial data.
A law passed in 1996 set new safety limits for pesticides on produce. Consequently, industry researchers have increasingly exposed paid volunteers to pesticides in order to determine the minimum level of a toxicant that causes effects such as headaches, nausea, and changes in the activity of enzymes in the blood. Although companies say human experiments are preferable to animal studies in setting realistic standards, these kinds of tests remain controversial. Clinton-era EPA chief Carol Browner barred the agency from using human data after activists argued that the tests--unlike drug trials--offer no potential health benefit to the participants. And an EPA advisory panel that wrestled with the issue for more than 2 years (Science, 1 January 1999, p. 18) condoned some human pesticide studies but advised against the minimum-response tests.
EPA revived the controversy late last month when it announced that the agency had resumed reviewing some human pesticide data and would develop a policy for such tests. On 14 December, in an about-face, EPA announced it will shelve such studies until NAS weighs in. The agency wants to know, for example, whether some toxicity research on humans should be considered "unacceptable" and how it should evaluate studies that weren't done under the ethical guidelines that govern federally funded research.
Outsiders say the agency should formulate official guidelines for human studies if it is going to encourage them. Bioethicist Arthur Caplan of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, a member of the advisory panel, says EPA is "desperately in need of a policy."