November 16, 2004

Guinea Pigs?

I received this link via an e-mail to a specific list.

The thrust of the link goes thusly: the EPA, under Bush, and sponsored by various manufacturers of household chemicals, wanted to study the affect of chemicals on young children. To this end they would use poor families where pesticides and chemicals were already in use.

The fear was two-fold; that the fact that the sponsors, or at least some of the sponsors, were manufacturers of the chemicals would bias the results in favor of their use. And secondly, that the parents may increase the use of said chemicals in order to participate in the study itself.

The study has been suspended until early 2005, no doubt due at least in part, to the massive negative publicity and campaigning efforts of various groups.

Personally, I don't think this is a case of evil machinations on the part of the Bush administration or the chemical companies. First, further reading seemed to indicate that parents would be apprised of their children's health status and presence of high levels of chemicals. Ending chemical use would not preclude them from continuing in the study. Secondly, the financial incentive was quite low; $970 + cam-corder and clothing (and I am rather put off by the assumption that even poorly educated parents---62% of the mother's had only an elementary or secondary education---would put their children in harms way because of the money or be incapable of understanding that the test was to determine the harmful affects. If a translator was employed where language difficulties existed, and the parents were apprised in non-scientific language the purpose of the study, then I don't think the risk of parents pouring chemicals into their homes is all that great. Participants were to come from those families who used 6 clinics in the state of Florida. I would object to ads to request participants, but a one on one truthful request where the hypothesis is stated (chemicals can cause harm) and the purpose of the test (to see if that is true) is not problematic to me. Uneducated does not mean unintelligent. The two are sometimes confused.

However, the study was only to take place over a two-year span; which I do not believe is a long enough period of time to study the long term effects of chemicals. A longitudinal study is more telling. Moreover, all children from a variety of environments should be studied. Pesticides are used by the wealthy as well as the impoverished.

To improve the study I would want to
1) Lengthen the period of time from 2 to at minimum ten yeas and preferably up to 25 years (or after the next generation is born). While the child him or herself may not show any or significant health risks it is possible that there are genetic repercussions.
2) The study must include those who do not use chemicals routinely..
3) The specific chemicals should be delineated; chemicals is not enough to determine which chemicals or combinations of chemicals are having, if any is present, a deleterious effect.
4) A variety of environments should be studied; chemicals used in all the various places the child goes to normally could have an affect on the results of the study.
5) All children should be studied in the same place regardless of their families income/background/educational level.
6) Rather than giving a direct payment to families, the clinics where the children have their routine care done (not private doctors) should be funded, and a college/trade school fund set aside for the use of the children, based on income. I've included trade school because not everyone can go forth to college. Everyone, however, should have the ability to procure a job which offers a supportive salary.

These inclusions would I think improve the study both scientifically and morally.

What have I left out? What do you disagree with?

Posted by Rachel Ann at November 16, 2004 07:35 AM
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