EPA Under Suspicion of Threatening Test Subjects’ Safety

The spotlight is on the Environmental Protection Agency after it was discovered that the government organization was not fully informing human test subjects on the potential harm of certain pollutants, harm that could eventually be cancer-causing.

In the recently-released Inspector General report for the Environmental Protection Agency, it was discovered that not every test subject truly knows exactly what the risks are before signing up for testing.

Federal law gives the EPA the right to perform testing on humans in an effort to research the harm done to humans by harm-inducing pollutants. However, while it has been discovered in recent years that the EPA is fully within the law’s bounds by performing testing between humans and diesel exhaust emissions, test subjects’ forms of consent failed to fully disclose the dangers of the testing and the pollutant being used.

Diesel exhaust has been a known carcinogen if inhaled in large quantities over time. This possible cancerous affect, however, was found on only a portion of the forms for the EPA’s tests between humans and diesel fumes.

For example, one form compared the test subjects’ experience with being exposed to a harmful pollutant as being in a large-scale city on a smoggy day; yet the pollutant levels used during testing were far greater than that of the average city that experiences smog.

Some of the most dangerous testing done by the EPA is performed on the University of North Carolina campus; it involves pumping very dangerous pollutants into minuscule chambers which contained human test subjects. This testing was very lucrative for the subjects (between $900 and $1400), yet also involved consent forms that were ambiguous about the dangerous nature of the pollutants being used.

In response to the inspector general’s findings, the EPA is defensive, yet admits to having room for improvement when it comes to informing their human test subjects to the full scope of the harm that is done by testing. The defense comes from the fact that the tests themselves are being done within the regulations given to them, even if the ethics of their consent forms is in a morally shady area.