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Report Calls out the EPA’s Pesticide Evaluation Practices

Update Date: Sep 03, 2014 12:07 PM EDT
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In a new report, a team of ecotoxicologists examined how the United States Environmental Protection Agency's (USEPA) carried out their evaluations on pesticide safety. The team argued that the agency's current practices are inadequate and biased, which could potentially jeopardize the environment and the health of both humans and animals.

According to the team headed by Michelle Boone of Miami University, the pesticide companies conduct the majority of the pesticide toxicity tests that the USEPA uses when assessing risk. Even though the authors cannot prove that these manufacturers alter the results of the toxicity tests in their own favor, they argued that due to conflicting interest, there is a high chance that bias might seep into the results.

The authors provided an example regarding an herbicide called atrazine. When the USEPA reassessed the safety of atrazine, it only used data provided from one study that was funded by the manufacturer. Even though atrazine is currently considered safe now, there were studies at the time that suggested that the herbicide could be potentially dangerous.

Other issues that the authors had with the USEPA's pesticide safety assessment policy include an overdependence on laboratory studies and the inconsistent use of criteria among taxonomic groups. The authors recommended some changes to the policy. One change is to include an independent third party that would ideally not be biased. Another change is to incorporate more available research when assessing pesticide safety.

"The risk assessment process can and should be improved so that decisions are made with the best available data with an evidence-based approach," Boone and her colleagues concluded according to the press release.

The study was published in BioScience.

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