Washington –  A program to test pesticides to make sure they do not affect human hormone systems will be compromised by an Office of Management and Budget order allowing data from studies by pesticide companies to substitute for new studies, according to some scientists involved in developing the new program.

Thirteen years ago Congress required the Environmental Protection Agency to screen pesticides for hormonal effects such as reproductive and developmental problems by 1999. Pesticides have been implicated in the appearance of male fish laying eggs in the Potomac River.

But the program to test the chemicals on animals such as tadpoles and rats is only now set to begin, and some scientists say it is already being rendered ineffective.

“What the OMB is asking the [EPA] to do is to accept all the old data from pesticide manufacturers defending the safety of their products,” said Theo Colborn, a scientist who served on panels that designed the testing program and selected the tests that compose it. “This looked like, to me, a very desperate attempt to cover up a decade or more of about 1000 studies and research on the effects of chemicals on the endocrine system,” which regulates many bodily functions.

The OMB, which oversees administration regulatory policies, told the EPA “to the greatest extent possible” accept existing data on the toxicity of the pesticides in lieu of conducting new tests on the 67 chemicals selected for investigation.

“I would view it as a smart, good government way of not making people do costly and duplicative tests,” said a senior OMB official, who noted that the tests can cost up to a million dollars.

But this instruction angered some environmental scientists, who contend the submission of previously conducted tests would allow the pesticide makers to selectively submit industry-financed and outdated studies that show the pesticides are safe. The pesticides should undergo the new battery of tests, they say.