State poison center director
weighs in on FQPA, OPs, carbamates

William O. Robertson, M. D. Medical Director Washington Poison Center

During March, 1998, the Washington State Congressional Delegation expressed to EPA Administrator Carol Browner its concern about implementation of the FQPA. Dr. William Roberston endorsed the delegation's position in the following letter.

To: The Honorable Carol Browner
Environmental Protection Agency
401 M Street SE
Washington, D. C. 20460

Dear Ms. Browner:

On behalf of the Washington Poison Center and myself personally I'm writing to endorse as strongly as possible our Washington Congressional Delegation's letter of March 6, 1998 to you regarding their concerns about the implementation of the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) and its impact on agriculture. I am equally concerned about its impact on scientific thinking on the one hand and government credibility on the other.

The state of Washington has had a "Pesticide Incident Reporting and Tracking" panel in operation for some eight years; made up of involved state agencies, as well as representatives of the public, it monitors concerns from the general public and from health care professionals about pesticides and their ramifications. Excluding the use of organophosphates and carbamates in occasional suicide attempts there are much better options the evidence of health care consequences of any acute nature due to either of these classes of pesticides is virtually nil. On a national basis, the American Association of Poison Control Centers publishes annually experiences from the nation's poison centers and it finds a comparable paucity of either organophosphate or carbamate-related acute problems other than in suicide efforts. Furthermore as we both know scientific documentation of any chronic problems whatsoever from these two classes of pesticides is controversial at the very least. Most certainly the chronic effects of either class of pesticides simply cannot be considered adequate as a basis for any individual's or organization's change in behavior whatsoever.

All of the above does not deny the remarkable "media blitz" aimed at the "terrible toxicity" of organophosphate and carbamate pesticides. Personally, I was distressed to see that even the American Academy of Pediatrics' March newsletter joined in the fray with a lead article authored by one of your staff. Admittedly, the "endocrine disruptor" hypothesis ascribed to other pesticides remains under consideration, but even its arch proponents have retracted in print! their support of organophosphates or carbamates as potential significant contributors to that postulated problem.

Our Washington Delegation, along with Congress, asks for a prudent, yet balanced, implementation of the Act. I'm confident the overwhelming majority of the scientific community would support such behavior. Clearly, science's time clock cannot be turned back; synthetic chemicals have demonstrated their efficacy and their safety and they are here to stay. Used properly, both organophosphates and carbamates are clearly cost/beneficial compounds. Efforts to promote a contrary position in the face of overwhelming contradictory data are bound to fail over the long term. The scientific community, as well as the agricultural community plus our nation's citizens all have a vested interest in your agency's decision on this particular matter. I'd hope it would be responsive to our Delegation's request.


William O. Robertson, M. D.
Medical Director
Washington Poison Center

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