EPA quiets a whistleblower -- top scientist gets transfer

DISAGREEING with your boss at the Environmental Protection Agency about the risk of using a particular pesticide can be risky these days. Just ask M. Adrian Gross, an EPA veterinary pathologist.

Mr. Gross, who has a masters in pathology from Ohio State and a reputation as an expert in his field, was one of three people asked to review risk data submitted by a laboratory working for a manufacturer of permethrin, FMC. The other two reviewers, who are not employees of the EPA, submitted very brief reports, which Gross calls ''very superficial.''

Gross submitted a 48-page memo citing many weaknesses in the laboratory's risk data. A few days later he was transferred to the job auditing the accuracy of private laboratory reports turned into EPA. He's no longer called on to judge the safety of the pesticides, but just to be sure the lab data is reliable.

''They just don't want me in there any more to second guess,'' he said in a Monitor interview.

Dr. John A. Todhunter, EPA assistant administrator for pesticides and toxic substances, says Gross could have been fired. ''We decided not to,'' he told the Monitor. ''You need people like that because you need people to keep you on your toes,'' he said.

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