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Pesticide study with children delayed

Ethical concerns over test subjects and chemical industry funding

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A planned government study into how children's bodies absorb pesticides and other chemicals has been temporarily suspended due to ethical concerns.

The Environmental Protection Agency said it would ask an outside panel of scientists to review its planned two-year study involving the families of 60 children in Duval County, Florida, and report back by spring. The study's design has already been reviewed by four other external boards, including two universities.

The study was to look at how pesticides, which can cause neurological damage in children, and chemicals such as flame retardants might be ingested, inhaled or otherwise absorbed through such things as food, drink, soil, crop residue and household dust.

"If we decide to go forward with this study, we want to make sure it's done right," EPA spokeswoman Cynthia Bergman said Wednesday. "There have been several concerns raised, including within the agency, and we want to be responsive and address those concerns."

Scientists at EPA and environmentalists questioned whether the government should give participating families $970 plus a camcorder and children's clothes, saying it might encourage low-income families to use pesticides in their homes.

EPA also had agreed to accept $2 million for the $9 million study from the American Chemistry Council, a trade group that represents chemical makers.

"It's fine that they pushed the pause button here," said Richard Wiles, senior vice president for the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy and research organization. "But for the study to have any integrity at all, they need to kick the chemical industry lobbyists and their money completely out of the process."

The trade group said in a statement that more review is useful, but it still supports the study "because of the great importance of increasing understanding of the exposures of young children to pesticides and other chemicals they naturally encounter in their daily lives."

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press


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