Let’s Seize Opportunity to Change Chemical Laws
By Kristie Sullivan, M.P.H.
This letter was printed on July 13, 2009, in The Hill.
As a toxicologist, I agree with Cal Dooley of the American Chemistry Council that the time has come to update the Toxic Substances Control Act, a 30-year-old law. But true reform will require updating the tests used to obtain the information upon which chemical safety decisions are based. These antiquated tests, many of which use animals, were developed in the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s. They often provide inaccurate information about the effects of chemicals in humans—and that puts public health at risk.
The Environmental Protection Agency and the National Academy of Sciences are among the many respected scientific organizations calling for toxicity testing methods that are human-relevant, faster, cheaper, and use fewer or no animals. In its 2007 report “Toxicity Testing in the 21st Century: A Vision and Strategy,” the NAS outlines an approach to chemical testing that will provide regulators with more information on the chemicals in our environment and a better understanding of chemicals’ potential effects on humans.
Pulling toxicity testing into the 21st century will require effort and support from everyone. Environmentalists, government regulators, chemical companies, animal protection groups, public health advocates, Congress, and President Obama’s administration will all need to work together to take advantage of this unprecedented opportunity. If we don’t provide the resources to update testing methods now, we will continue to waste time, money, and animals, and fail to protect people, well into the future.
Kristie Sullivan, M.P.H., is a scientific and policy adviser with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.