PCRM Scientists Educate Governments, Cosmetics Companies on Nonanimal Tests
At a recent workshop co-hosted by PCRM, pesticide regulators from the United States and Canada agreed to take steps to replace a key animal test for pesticides with an in vitro alternative. The change will save thousands of animals from dying in laboratories. This is just one example of the many ways PCRM scientists are working with government agencies and companies worldwide to end animal testing.
In recent months, PCRM has helped persuade the Environmental Protection Agency to cut by half the number of birds used in one toxicity test for pesticides. PCRM scientists have lobbied internationally to end the Draize skin test that involves applying potentially toxic chemicals on the skin of live rabbits. And a new PCRM campaign asks cosmetics companies to certify in writing that their ingredients and products are not tested in the Draize skin test.
“In vitro alternatives are not just more humane; they are better indicators of skin irritancy and toxicology than animal tests,” says PCRM’s scientific and policy adviser Kristie Sullivan, M.P.H. “They save the lives of countless animals who would otherwise die in laboratories each year.”
At PCRM’s first Roadmap to a Better Method skin absorption workshop held in Gaithersburg, Md., in May, representatives from the U.S., Canadian, and California pesticide regulatory agencies saw firsthand the superiority of in vitro methods. Along with top experts from the Institute for In Vitro Sciences, PCRM demonstrated viable alternatives for skin absorption tests, including human cadaver skin or leftover surgical skin specimens. Skin absorption tests measure the amount of pesticide that is absorbed through the skin. Because of this workshop, regulators and pesticide manufacturers are working to replace this animal test with a more human-relevant method.
Another method, EpiDerm, replaces the Draize skin irritation test used in the safety assessment of household products, chemicals, and cosmetics. It uses a laboratory grown, three-dimensional skin model that mimics human skin. Studies show that it is far more accurate than animal tests at identifying skin irritants.
EpiDerm and similar in vitro alternatives have gained acceptance worldwide. After years of lobbying by PCRM and animal protection groups, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), an international body that coordinates testing programs and guidelines from various countries, approved the use of in vitro methods in lieu of the Draize skin test for use by companies and governments around the world.
As secretariat of the International Council for Animal Protection in OECD, scientific guidance from PCRM helped pave the way for this landmark decision. PCRM is now working to make sure pesticide companies replace the Draize skin test with the in vitro test in their laboratories.
PCRM will continue to host more Roadmap to a Better Method workshops for regulators, including workshops focused on inhalation testing and reproductive testing.
A series of regulator education workshops is also planned to ensure in vitro alternatives are implemented, and agencies and companies remain committed to replacing animal tests.
A new PCRM campaign keeps the pressure on cosmetics and personal care product companies to adopt nonanimal tests. Through a survey that began in 2012, companies are asked to certify that they do not use animal tests for skin irritation at any stage of the development and manufacturing process.
If a company does use animal tests, PCRM will work with them to integrate nonanimal methods in their programs to create safer products for humans and avoid suffering for animals.