of dangerous substances - The current administration is changing the ethics standards at the EPA so that they no longer back studies that use people as guinea pigs. Years ago, under pressure from chemical companies, the EPA reversed its long-standing ban on human testing, but on June 16, they reversed that decision. This is one of the many extraordinary topics that Whitley and Starfire Tor talk about on Dreamland.
In one scandalous EPA test in the past, subjects were deceived into thinking they were taking drugs that were being tested, when they were really ingesting pesticides. In Wired.com, Brandon Keim quotes researcher Jennifer Sass as saying, "What we were really concerned about is toxicity studies, where they're trying to do a study on humans to determine the dose response of a chemical. If the EPA stops accepting them, there's no motivation for companies to conduct them."
Keim quotes a 2005 report on these tests by senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and representative Henry Waxman (D-CA) which says, "These pesticides are intentionally designed to be toxic. Their whole purpose is to kill insects and invasive plants. Yet in the experiments, test subjects swallowed insecticide tablets, sat in chambers with pesticide vapors, had pesticides applied to their skin, had pesticides shot into their eyes and noses, and were even exposed in their homes for six months at a time.
"The subjects were not told of the dangers of exposure to the pesticides. Sometimes, they weren't even told the substances being tested were pesticides. They were misled into believing that they were participating in 'drug' trials, not pesticide experiments."
Keim reminds us that "Almost every standard code of medical ethics, including the Nuremberg Code, written in response to Nazi doctors' nightmare studies, forbids human tests of drugs or chemicals that may cause harm, but can provide no direct benefit."
Pesticides are certainly a problem in the classroom: Attention Deficit Disorder is a major cause of children not succeeding in school, and it's been discovered that children who have been exposed to pesticides may have a higher risk of ADHD.
When researchers tested the urine of a group of kids, they found that those who had high levels of pesticides called organophosphates were almost twice as likely to develop ADHD.
In Reuters, Frederik Joelving quotes researcher Marc Weisskopf as saying, "There is growing concern that these pesticides may be related to ADHD. What this paper specifically highlights is that this may be true even at low concentrations."
Organophosphates were originally developed for chemical warfare, and are toxic to the nervous system. There are about 40 organophosphate pesticides, such as malathion, still used in the US. Weisskopf thinks the most likely exposure is from produce and house plants.
Meanwhile, a simple blood test can now predict whether newborn babies are at high risk of developing allergies as they grow older. Immunologist Tony Ferrante says,
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