People used to test toxic substances: Is it right?
Should chemical and pesticide companies be allowed to replace lab rats with humans to test the safety of toxic chemicals?
That's the volatile question a special panel of the National Academy of Sciences is scheduled to take up next week.
A year ago, the Environmental Protection Agency asked the academy to examine the ethics and scientific value of paying people to eat or drink small amounts of pesticides, rocket fuel and other toxic substances to gauge the level at which they affect human health.
Pesticide companies have taken the EPA to court to force the government to consider the results of human studies performed by private contractors in regulatory decision-making. Industry officials say the human tests are a more precise gauge of the potential health impacts of some toxic substances than laboratory tests on animals.