By JOHN HEILPRIN
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Environmental Protection Agency on Friday
canceled a controversial study using children to measure the effect of
pesticides after Democrats said they would block Senate confirmation of
the agency's new head.
Stephen Johnson, as EPA's acting administrator, ordered an end to the
planned study, a reversal from the agency's position just a day earlier
when it said it would await the advice of outside scientific experts.
The aim of the study, Johnson said, was to fill data gaps on children's
exposure to household pesticides and chemicals. He suspended it last
November after ethical questions were raised by scientists within EPA and
Over the study's two years, EPA had planned to give $970 plus a
camcorder and children's clothes to each of the families of 60 children in
Duval County, Fla., in what critics of the study noted was a low-income
EPA also had agreed to accept $2 million for the $9 million
``Children's Health Environmental Exposure Research Study'' from the
American Chemistry Council, a trade group that represents chemical makers.
``I have concluded that the study cannot go forward, regardless of the
outcome of the independent review. EPA must conduct quality, credible
research in an atmosphere absent of gross misrepresentation and
controversy,'' Johnson said Friday. ``I am committed to ensuring that
EPA's research is based on sound science with the highest ethical
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., had joined with Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.,
in demanding the study's cancellation as a condition for confirming
Johnson's nomination by President Bush.
``I am very pleased that Mr. Johnson has recognized the gross error in
judgment the EPA made when they concocted this immoral program to test
pesticides on children,'' Boxer said.
``The CHEERS program was a reprehensible idea that never should have
made it out of the boardroom, and I am just happy that it was stopped
before any children were put in harm's way,'' Boxer said, adding that she
would continue to oppose any testing of toxins on humans.
Environmentalists such as Mike Casey, a spokesman for the advocacy- and
research-oriented Environmental Working Group, applauded the end of what
he called ``a completely corrupt idea.''
``EPA should never have entertained it, and no advisory committee was
going to fix it. We're glad Steve Johnson had the wisdom and moral compass
to put a stop to it,'' Casey said.
The American Chemistry Council said it was ``confident that EPA can
develop new approaches to achieve the study's research objective ... while
assuring the public that the health of any study's participants will be
protected and that studies will be conducted under the highest ethical
On Thursday, the agency said it would await a report from a science
advisory panel, a process that spokesman Rich Hood said could take until
May, before deciding the study's fate.
Johnson, an EPA employee for a quarter-century and the first person
with a science background to be nominated to lead the agency, has been
acting administrator since Mike Leavitt left the agency in January to
become secretary of the Health and Human Services Department. He was
nominated in March.
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which met Wednesday
to hear from Johnson, said Friday it would meet again next week to
consider his nomination.
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