Congress Moves to Improve Toxicity Testing
The Physicians Committee and other groups have spent several years working with Congress to improve toxicity testing legislation. The Chemical Safety Improvement Act, introduced May 22, aims to move toxicity testing away from its heavy reliance on animal tests and toward more human-relevant methods.
The Chemical Safety Improvement Act of 2013 (CSIA), introduced by Sens. Frank Lautenberg and David Vitter, contains many provisions recommended by the Physicians Committee and by the National Academies in their 2007 report Toxicity Testing in the 21st Century: A Vision and a Strategy. Importantly, it requires the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to fund research and validation studies to replace, reduce, and refine the use of animals.
“We are pleased to see that our legislators understand the need to upgrade toxicity testing with more human-relevant, nonanimal methods and have proposed legislation that will speed this transition,” said Kristie Sullivan, M.P.H., director of regulatory testing issues for the Physicians Committee. “However, faster progress could be made by requiring, rather than encouraging, new methods to be used in place of animals wherever possible.”
Principles to replace and reduce animal-based test methods and to increase the use of information from human-based and mechanistic tools are integrated into the legislation. The bill’s prioritization process will focus first on chemicals likely to be hazardous. The bill also directs the EPA to consider all available information on a chemical and similar chemicals, including mechanistic and “toxicity-pathway” information, in assessing safety and before requiring new testing. New testing requirements are to follow a tiered, strategic approach.
The bill is not perfect. Unfortunately, by directing the EPA to “encourage and facilitate”—rather than require—the use of nonanimal test methods, grouping of chemicals, formation of industry consortia, and other strategies to minimize animal testing, lawmakers may have missed an important opportunity.
The Physicians Committee is urging Congress to harmonize the bill with the European Union law, which requires the use of more human-relevant, nonanimal methods where reasonably and practicably available. Such a requirement is crucial to the rapid development and uptake of new methods and the continued improvements in toxicity testing policy that offer superior protection for public health and the environment.
Visit ReformToxicityTesting.org to learn more about chemical testing legislation.