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Birds Saved from Pesticide Testing
February 28, 2012

SparrowThe Environmental Protection Agency requires companies to kill thousands of animals each year in toxicity tests for pesticides. But thanks, in part, to PCRM’s advocacy, the agency recently announced a new policy that could cut the number of birds used in these tests by more than half. I’ve asked PCRM toxicologist Kristie Sullivan, M.P.H., who helped influence the EPA’s decision, to provide more details:

Currently, pesticides—chemicals used in agricultural settings and in homes as weed and insect killers—are tested on a wide variety of animals, including rats, mice, dogs, fish, and rabbits. Perhaps most surprisingly, these toxins are also tested on birds—sometimes caught in the wild—such as quail or zebra finches.

Birds experience extreme stress due to capture and confinement: Up to 10 percent of the group can die during the acclimation period alone, and the test would still be considered valid. The test itself, an acute oral toxicity test, is designed to find the Lethal Dose 50, or the amount of chemical that will kill outright half of the birds tested.

The EPA’s new policy, which will reduce the use of birds by as many as 36 birds per test, is based on a new European guideline from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Several hundred birds will be saved each year if all companies agreed to use this test.

In 2002, the International Council on Animal Protection at OECD (ICAPO) formed to incorporate alternative methods that can replace, reduce, and refine animal use in chemical testing. As Secretariat of ICAPO, PCRM organizes ICAPO’s efforts to comment on proposed test guidelines and policies, nominates scientific experts to OECD meetings, and advocates for the adoption of nonanimal test guidelines.

PCRM will continue working to reform toxicity testing to end animal use. In the meantime, reductions like these can save the lives of thousands of animals per year. You can learn more about our efforts at


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