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Is Weed Killer in Drinking Water Dangerous? Govt. Is Letting the Chemical Industry Come Up with the Answer

EPA officials claim chemical industry's own evidence is 'scientifically more robust' than independent research.

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“Whether or not they have been published, the studies submitted to EPA for registration support of pesticide products are subject to scientific review by EPA scientists that is equally, if not more, rigorous and demanding than the pre-publication peer review conducted by any scientific journal,” said spokeswoman Mary Emma Young.

Some people are skeptical about the rigor of the EPA’s scrutiny. “What worries me,” said the University of Texas’ Wagner, “is the possibility that there isn’t time or energy within EPA to give a lot of oversight to this unpublished, industry-funded research, especially when the number of unpublished studies for a chemical like atrazine are in the thousands.”

A former EPA official, epidemiologist Lynn Goldman, said it is normal and necessary for the agency to accept unpublished and industry-funded studies, most of which would not be interesting enough to publish in scientific journals.

“This is the way that the system was built by Congress.  It could be changed but the EPA does not have the authority to turn the system upside down,” said Goldman, a former assistant administrator for toxic substances during the Clinton administration.

The existence of a list of relevant research for EPA review has played a prominent role in public arguments for the herbicide’s safety. Journalists, scientists, and advocates for atrazine have frequently cited the “6,000” studies.

In 2005, Anne Lindsay, then a top official in the EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs, brought up the number of studies during congressional testimony. “Atrazine is one of the most well-examined pesticides in the marketplace,” she said, noting that “there are nearly 6,000 studies in EPA files on the human health and environmental effect of atrazine.”

Syngenta now cites the number in its press materials and on its website – not merely as a tally of studies but as proof of its safety. “Atrazine passes the most stringent, up-to-date safety requirements in the world,” said spokesman Paul Minehart. “In 2006, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) re-registered atrazine in 2006 based on the overwhelming evidence of safety from nearly 6,000 studies.”

Danielle Ivory is a reporter for the Huffington Post Investigative Fund . Her videos and writing have appeared on Democracy Now, The Nation, Alternet, Truthout, and The Huffington Post and the American News Project.

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