Update: The EPA's Massive Animal Test Programs Inch Forward
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is driving the High Production Volume (HPV) Challenge forward despite its dismal failures. Announced in October 1998, the HPV program calls for the testing of 2,800 industrial chemicals produced or imported in amounts of 1 million pounds or more. Although the rationale behind HPV was to gather information on chemicals that may pose a threat to human health, it escalated into a massive animal testing disaster offering nothing in the way of improved public safety or protection for the environment.
Under the HPV program, chemical manufacturers "volunteer" to evaluate various industrial chemicals and pledge to review all existing data to minimize unnecessary tests. However, because of slipshod reviews, some manufacturers have proposed new animal tests, not realizing they had already been done. PCRM researchers are diligently monitoring this program and have raised objections every step of the way. Additionally, we discovered that several chemicals are already being reviewed by other government agencies. For example, four chemicals to date have been identified as "food contact substances," a category which includes plastic additives in food packaging materials. These substances are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, and extensive chemical and toxicological information on them most likely already exists.
Furthermore, many companies are proposing tests the EPA has already eliminated from the program and/or replaced with nonanimal alternatives. Their reasons for doing so are unknown; animal testing is not only costly in terms of animal lives, but of time, labor, and dollars, as well.
We have achieved several important victories so far. Under relentless pressure from PCRM and other organizations, the EPA agreed to eliminate one test on land-dwelling animals such as birds and earthworms and also to discourage the long-standing skin toxicity test previously used on animals. The EPA has also recommended that a nonanimal test be used to evaluate damage to DNA. Replacement of this animal test with the alternative will spare the lives of as many as 95,000 animals.
After PCRM and other organizations presented concerns to the EPA about companies' shoddy analyses of existing data and proposals for extensive tests on animals, the agency sent out a letter to all HPV participants reiterating animal welfare concerns.
Unfortunately, the EPA is pushing this program forward despite its failures and limitations. The agency still has not delineated what action, if any, will be taken in response to the information gathered. PCRM maintains that this program will not benefit public health or make the environment safer. We already know that many of the chemicals proposed for further testing are toxic. We need more laws protecting human health, not more animal experimentation.