Millions of Animals Saved from Chemical Toxicity Tests
PCRM recently joined several organizations to save 4.5 million animals from toxicity testing. The groups persuaded the European Chemicals Agency to take action that prevents these animals from dying in long-term chemical-poisoning tests. And in the United States last week, the Environmental Protection Agency also announced chemical safety reform. But without your input, the U.S. plan will not improve public health or animal protection.
In September, PCRM and groups including Humane Society International-Europe and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) wrote a letter to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) expressing concerns about Europe’s regulation of chemicals under Regulation for Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals, or REACH.
REACH requires chemicals to undergo progressively more animal testing as their production volume increases. And there was a danger that companies conducting general toxicity "screening" tests—which kills almost 700 animals per chemical—would be required to conduct more comprehensive tests for these same effects at a later date, killing even more animals.
In response to the letter, the ECHA said that companies registering chemicals produced in quantities of 100 metric tons—or 220,500 pounds—or more can bypass screening tests if they are proposing more comprehensive tests later in the process. Based on ECHA figures, 6,000 chemicals may fall under this provision.
Like REACH, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the primary U.S. law that regulates industrial chemicals, is also trying to meet the demand for quicker assessment of a wider range of chemicals. This will only be accomplished through necessary reform of the science underlying safety assessment.
“It is essential that new legislation governing the regulation of chemicals invests in scientific advancements that reduce the use of animals in toxicity testing and better protect human health and the environment,” says PCRM toxicologist Kristie Sullivan, M.P.H.
Later this year, Congress will consider a sweeping revision to TSCA, which is administered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This will be the first major revision in the law's 33-year history. Under this revision, chemical companies may be required to conduct tests on millions of animals in laboratories to obtain information on the potential hazards of chemicals to humans and the environment.
But in a statement made last week, PCRM toxicologists pointed out that the EPA’s recently released “Essential Principles for Reform of Chemicals Management Legislation” does not recommend a process for effective chemicals management. It also leaves out important advances in toxicity testing EPA, the National Research Council, and other scientists say are needed to better assess chemicals and that would benefit both people and animals:
“The EPA itself has realized the importance of this fundamental change in the science by its commissioning of a report from the National Academies of Science, Toxicity Testing in the 21st Century: A Vision and a Strategy, that outlines a paradigm shift from current, animal-intensive and time-consuming scientific methods to more streamlined and effective biology-based methods. The agency has also incorporated the principles of the report into its own strategic plan.”
PCRM, which released the statement with PETA and the Humane Society of the United States, is working to ensure that U.S. legislation offers public health protection and relies on human-relevant, nonanimal methods for toxicity.
To learn more about TSCA and sign up to persuade Congress to reform chemical testing, visit ReformToxicityTesting.org.
Kristie Sullivan, M.P.H.
PCRM Online, October 2009