Every year, millions of animals are killed in U.S. lab tests and experiments, with the vast majority of them being mice, rats, birds, and fish. But on Tuesday, President Obama signed a revision of TSCA, the Toxic Substances Act, at the White House.
The revisions to the 40-year-old bill include the overhaul of government regulation of toxic chemicals—a necessary move toward protecting Americans’ health, as well as the wellbeing of their land and water from harmful substances. It also includes an explicit decree from Congress to minimize animal testing and to create a clear preference for the development and use of alternative methods and strategies.
The section of the bill relating to animal testing marks a hard-fought battle that will accelerate the movement away from animal tests for chemicals, pesticides, biocides, cosmetics, and any substance that has the potential to be dangerous.
The signing of the bill gives the Environmental Protection Agency the order from Congress to embrace 21st century science and move away from the outdated practices of animal testing, which are costly, time consuming, and often non-predictive of human outcomes.
The EPA has already been working to dramatically decrease animal tests for pesticide hazard assessments. They’re also now working to replace animal tests in its endocrine screening program. And this year, they proposed to waive skin lethal dose tests for pesticide formulations.
Banning animal testing has been a global fight, with the European Union banning cosmetic animal testing and trade in 2013. India jumped on the bandwagon the following year, and Australia will soon follow suit as well. Furthermore, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which includes 34 member nations, of which one is the United States, embraces using the best new techniques and approaches for safety assessment, which will surely hasten the move away from animal testing internationally.
Wayne Pacelle, CEO and president of the Humane Society of the United States, stated prior to the bill being signed just how important the reforms would be for animals:
This bill will dramatically upgrade protections for people from dangerous chemicals, but it will also save hundreds of thousands of animals from having harsh chemicals rubbed into their skin, forced down their throats and dropped in their eyes…By minimizing animal testing and focusing on the use of faster, cost effective, and more reliable testing methods, private companies and the federal government can save lives, time, and money.
The Human Society has worked tirelessly to reduce animal testing requirements, efforts which have seen their international team in Europe reducing them by as much as 50 percent in Europe for risk assessment for pesticides and biocides.
They’ve also gotten Canada, Brazil, India, and the EU to throw out a one-year dog pesticide-poisoning study requirement, which the U.S. deleted back in 2007. In the past year, HSI has even worked with the EU to find alternate methods for skin/eye irritation, skin allergy, and skin lethal dose testing, and a reduced animal use test for reproductive toxicity under its chemicals law.
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