Florida’s Other Senator

While Florida’s new senator, Mel Martinez, disgraces himself and the state, veteran Sen. Bill Nelson continues to do the right thing. The St. Petersburg Times covered his press conference yesterday with California Sen. Barbara Boxer, where he announced he is blocking Bush’s pick to lead the EPA. Nelson is leading a group of Democratic senators who oppose an EPA study in Northeast Florida of the effect of pesticides on babies.

“The government should not be asking families to turn their babies into guinea pigs,” Nelson said.

Despite its snappy name – CHEERS (Children’s Environmental Exposure Research Study) and partial funding of $2.1-million from the American Chemistry Council, the chief lobbying group for chemical companies, Nelson thinks it might not be such a good idea to test pesticides on newborns.

According to an EPA brochure distributed in parts of Jacksonville, the two-year study was designed to help the government learn more about the effects of pesticides on children; it is open to any family with an infant up to three months old, or between the ages of nine and 12 months.

Participants must agree to use household pesticides and to allow periodic visits from EPA researchers. They must collect food and urine samples from their children and record their infants’ behavior with a videocamera.

In return, the families get $970, a T-shirt and a calendar. They also get to keep the videocamera.

Well, who could pass up a t-shirt and a camcorder? Especially when it could be years and years before the effects of those chemicals show up. By then, if history is any indication (remember the movie, A Civil Action?), it will be impossible to directly prove it was the pesticides that produced Johnny’s horrible disease.

Florida is stuck with Mel Martinez, but that makes it even more important to support a really true public servant like Sen. Bill Nelson next year.


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