Fact Check


Does an EPA study propose paying families to allow their children to be exposed to pesticides?

Published Jul 28, 2012

Claim:   An EPA study proposed paying families to allow their children to be exposed to pesticides.

Status:   Multiple:

  • The EPA planned to deliberately expose youngsters to pesticides in order to study what effects those chemical compounds may have on children:   False.
  • The EPA planned to study children who live in an area where pesticides are used year-round:   True.
  • The proposed study was canceled in April 2005:   True.

Example:   [Collected via e-mail, 2004]

EPA Will Use Poor Kids as Guinea Pigs to Test Toxic Chemicals

Dear friend,

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced plans to launch an outrageous new study in which participating low income families will have their children exposed to toxic pesticides over the course of two years. For taking part in these studies, each family will receive $970, a free video camera, a T-shirt, and a framed certificate of appreciation. The study entitled CHEERS (Children's Environmental Exposure Research Study) will look at how chemicals can be ingested, inhaled or absorbed by children ranging from babies to 3 years old.

Please take a moment to follow this link and join tens of thousands of citizens in petitioning the EPA to terminate this study prior to its proposed launch in early 2005.

More information, related newspaper headlines and petition here:


Please also forward this message.

Origins:   Yet again an interesting mix of truth and scare has been loosed upon us all. While the November 2004 e-mail quoted above was relatively factual, its wording left those who received it with an impression far removed from the truth. While the proposed investigation was real, the nature of the test subjects was misunderstood, leading to those who heard of to arrive at some erroneous


Through a research project known as the Children's Environmental Exposure Research Study (CHEERS), the United States' Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) planned to gather data about pesticide and household chemical exposure in very young children. The study was set to begin in the summer of 2005 in Jacksonville, Florida, and would have entailed monitoring 60 infants (newborn to just shy of 13 months old) for a period of two years.

However, while the e-mail left readers with the impression that poverty-stricken families were for the price of a camcorder and $970 heartlessly offering up their tots as lab rats, the little ones to be deliberately sickened by cruel scientists intent upon advancing human knowledge even at the price of 60 babies potentially dealt life-long serious physical ailments by exposure to dreadful chemicals, the truth was quite different. One of the reasons the EPA chose Duval County, Florida, as the site of this research had to do with year-round pesticide use in that area. The children who would have been the subjects of the study live there. In other words, if all the clipboard-wielding EPA people stayed home and the project were canceled before it began, these same children would be exposed to these same pesticides and in the same amounts, due to nothing more sinister than where their parents chose to settle and raise their families.

The EPA would not have been administering pesticides to children. Children who were already exposed to pesticides due to where they lived would have been studied by the EPA.

Given that these youngsters were coming into contact with noxious chemicals because of where they lived, the EPA saw a good opportunity to examine the effects of such compounds on small children by studying subjects drawn from this particular group. CHEERS would have tracked 60 of these little ones over the course of two years, measuring not only their exposure to pesticides but also to ordinary household chemicals (cleaning products and the like). The parents of kids taking part in the study would have had to keep very careful logs on which products were used and in which amounts in their homes. They would also have been required to videotape their tykes being studied and maintain logs of the little ones' activities. For this, and for allowing researchers into the family domicile every few months to assess the children being observed and to examine the homes, these parents would have received a $970 stipend and would have been allowed at the end of the two years to keep the video cameras.

Update: On 8 April 2005, the proposed study was canceled. As to why, Stephen L. Johnson, Acting Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, said:

Last fall, in light of questions about the study design, I directed that all work on the study stop immediately and requested an independent review. Since that time, many misrepresentations about the study have been made. EPA senior scientists have briefed me on the impact these misrepresentations have had on the ability to proceed with the study.

I have concluded that the study cannot go forward, regardless of the outcome of the independent review. EPA must conduct quality, credible research in an atmosphere absent of gross misrepresentation and controversy.

Additional information:

        Overview of Children's Environmental Exposure Research Study   Overview of Children's Environmental Exposure Research Study   (EPA)

        CHEERS Fact Sheet   CHEERS Fact Sheet   (EPA)

Last updated:   31 August 2005


  Sources Sources:

    Allison, Wes.   "Nelson Vows EPA Delay Over Pesticide Study."

    St. Petersburg Times.   8 April 2005   (p. A6).

    Eilperin, Juliet.   "Chemical Industry Funds Aid EPA Study."

    The Washington Post.   26 October 2004   (p. A3).

    Kirkpatrick, David D.   "E.P.A. Halts Florida Test on Pesticides."

    The New York Times.   9 April 2005   (p. A15).

    Associated Press.   "Pesticide Study with Children Delayed."

    CNN.   12 November 2004.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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