- Database supports policy shift from risk to alternatives assessment
By Kagan Owens, Jay Feldman and John Kepner
Beyond Pesticides, Summer 2010
Straight to the Source
The common diseases affecting the public’s health are all too well-known in the 21st century: asthma, autism and learning disabilities, birth defects and reproductive dysfunction, diabetes, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, and several types of cancer. Their connection to pesticide exposure continues to strengthen despite efforts to restrict individual chemical exposure, or mitigate chemical risks, using risk assessment-based policy.
The Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database, launched by Beyond Pesticides, facilitates access to epidemiologic and laboratory studies based on real world exposure scenarios that link public health effects to pesticides. The scientific literature documents elevated rates of chronic diseases among people exposed to pesticides, with increasing numbers of studies associated with both specific illnesses and a range of illnesses. With some of these diseases at very high and, perhaps, epidemic proportions, there is an urgent need for public policy at all levels -local, state, and national-to end dependency on toxic pesticides, replacing them with carefully defined green strategies.
Data Supports Policy Change
The database is a tool to support efforts to eliminate the continued use of hazardous pesticides in favor of green strategies that emphasize non-toxic and least-toxic alternative practices and products. The studies in the database show that our current approach to restricting pesticide use through risk assessment-based mitigation measures is not working. This failed human experiment must be ended. The warnings of those who have expressed concerns about risk assessment, such as EPA Administrator under Presidents Nixon and Reagan, William Ruckelshaus, have been borne out by three decades of use and study. Mr. Ruckelshaus in 1984 said, “We should remember that risk assessment data can be like the captured spy: If you torture it long enough, it will tell you anything you want to know.” EPA’s risk assessment fails to look at chemical mixtures, synergistic effects, certain health endpoints (such as endocrine disruption), disproportionate effects to vulnerable population groups, and regular noncompliance with product label directions. These deficiencies contribute to its severe limitations in defining real world poisoning, as captured by epidemiologic studies in the database.