PCRM Takes the EPA to Court
PCRM has gone to court to block the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from launching yet another massive animal testing program, one even bigger than the controversial High Production Volume Program and Voluntary Children's Chemical Evaluation Program. This latest catastrophe, the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program, proposes to test 80,000 compounds to determine whether they are "endocrine disruptors," that is, chemicals that can mimic or alter the effects of hormones. The program is based on the idea that if these chemicals are in the air, water, or household products, they can enter the body and act like estrogens or other hormonal compounds, disrupting biological systems and making humans or wildlife sick.
As many as 80 million animals will die in this program if it continues as currently constructed. The EPA plans to rely almost exclusively on poorly developed animal tests, dismissing newer, more reliable nonanimal methods. Far from protecting people or the environment, experiments on animals will simply produce massive amounts of uninterpretable data.
Two tests the EPA is relying on involve dosing rats with chemicals, surgically removing their sex organs and glands, and weighing them. However, different species have dramatically different hormonal systems, making it impossible to conclude anything about hormonal effects and human disease from experiments on rats.
One of the most notable examples of how animal tests have failed to predict the effects of endocrine disruptors is the tragedy of diethylstilbestrol (DES), a synthetic estrogen given to women to prevent miscarriages and pregnancy complications. Many women taking this drug, as well as their children, developed cancer and reproductive abnormalities. Yet even though DES is highly toxic in humans, no adverse effects were seen in several strains of rats, mice, and rabbits who were given the drug.
In its court action, PCRM joins other organizations opposing the case originally filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). NRDC sued the EPA, claiming the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program was not being implemented fast enough. PCRM jumped in, cautioning the EPA not to rush into poorly developed animal tests, but to use nonanimal methods instead. In vitro tests using human cells would provide insight into the mechanisms of endocrine disruption at the cellular level in the species of interest—humans—eliminating the errors introduced by interspecies extrapolation. Some in vitro tests are automated and can screen thousands of chemicals over a very short period of time, an advantage that cannot be achieved with experiments on animals.
PCRM doctors are continuing to raise their concerns with the EPA and the Court in hopes that this cruel animal testing fiasco can be transformed into a useful environmental program.
What You Can Do
Write to your congressional representative and senators and to EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman. Ask them to review the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program and bring some common sense to this issue. Instead of focusing on cruel and irrelevant animal tests, the EPA should use nonanimal methods. It should also develop a program to reduce exposures to harmful chemicals. To find out who your representatives and senators are, go to www.Congress.org or call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.
More Legal Challenges to EPA Cruelty
PCRM is also suing the EPA regarding the High Production Volume Program, asking that the chemical companies be required to bring forth all information on the chemicals involved in the program. As it stands, companies may repeat animal tests that have already been done. Only half the manufacturers are participating in the program, and many are presenting incomplete reports of available data.
PCRM is also asking the Court to review an EPA ruling that established a controversial animal experiment, the developmental neurotoxicity test, that is part of the Voluntary Children's Chemical Evaluation Program. The test, which involves upwards of 2,000 animals, was passed without undergoing a standard review by other scientists or the public.