EPA scientists say agency is 'besieged' by pesticide interests

Published: Wednesday May 31, 2006

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Environmental Protection Agency scientists complained that they've been 'besieged' by pesticide interests in a letter sent to the EPA administrator last week, RAW STORY has learned.

"Our colleagues in the pesticide program feel besieged by political pressure exerted by agency officials perceived to be too closely aligned with the pesticide industry and former EPA officials now representing the pesticide and agricultural community," wrote the scientists.

The scientists accuse the EPA of putting the "concerns of agriculture and the pesticide industry" before the agency's "responsibility to protect the health of our Nation's citizens."

"We are concerned that the agency has lost sight of its regulatory responsibilities in trying to reach consensus with those that it regulates," the letter continues.

The letter, signed by nine presidents of three EPA unions, was obtained and released by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), a group formed to protect whistleblowers and "dedicated to upholding environmental laws and values." (PDF link of letter)

"Our top public scientists are morally and professionally compromised by the Bush administration partnership with the chemical industry, stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch in a press release. "The fact that this letter had to be sent at all is an utter disgrace but, even more disgraceful, is the likelihood that this warning will be disregarded by an agency that is supposed to be protecting public health and the environment."

Excerpts from PEER's press release:


In an unprecedented action, representatives for thousands of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency scientists are publicly objecting to imminent agency approval for a score of powerful, controversial pesticides, according to a letter released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The scientists cite "compelling evidence" which EPA leadership is choosing to ignore that these "pesticides damage the developing nervous systems of fetuses, infants and children."

On August 3, 2006, EPA faces a deadline for issuing final tolerance approval for 20 organophosphate and carbamate pesticides. In a letter dated May 24, 2006, leaders of three unions (American Federation of Government Employees, National Treasury Employees Union and Engineers and Scientists of California) representing 9,000 scientists, risk managers and other specialists asked EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson to either adopt maximum exposure protections for these agents or take them off the market.

Organophosphates, derived from World War II-era nerve agents, are banned in England, Sweden and Denmark. In the 1990s the National Academies of Science criticized EPAs regulation of these pesticides. The Clinton administration began moves to ban the agents but the Bush administration changed course. In the past few months, the Bush administration approach has been faulted by both EPAs own Scientific Advisory Panel and its Office of Inspector General.

In their letter, the EPA scientists charge that agency "risk assessments cannot state with confidence the degree to which any exposure of a fetus, infant or child to a pesticide will or will not adversely affect their neurological development."


Full press release at this link.