Reducing Animal Use in Toxicity Testing
Each year, laboratories around the world subject millions of mice, rabbits, dogs, and other animals to painful experiments to test the toxicity of different chemicals that impact public health and the environment. These procedures are not only cruel but also misleading and not protective of human health. That’s why PCRM has a team of scientists working tirelessly to reduce and replace the use of animals in this field—and they are making headway.
Last month, Kristie Sullivan, M.P.H., a PCRM scientific and policy adviser, and Chad Sandusky, Ph.D., PCRM senior director of toxicology and research, presented one of PCRM’s many success stories to the Society of Toxicology annual meeting in Seattle. At a poster presentation, the two toxicologists shared their experience working with Dow Chemical Co. to substitute a computer simulation for animal testing of a particular industrial chemical.
Dow had originally proposed a series of skin tests on animals to fulfill the testing requirements of an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) program, but Sullivan and Sandusky persuaded the company to use state-of-the-art computer modeling and in vitro methods instead. By presenting their success at this international conference, they hope to show other chemical companies and regulators that alternatives can be used to protect public and worker health while avoiding expensive and inhumane animal tests.
Meetings like the Society of Toxicology conference give PCRM scientists the chance to share their expertise about alternatives and to network with other scientists, academics, and government regulators.
PCRM’s ongoing work to reduce animal use in EPA chemical testing programs is paying off in other ways. In February, that agency—along with the National Institutes of Health and the National Toxicology Program—announced a new program aimed at drastically reducing toxicity testing on animals.
PCRM scientists are also involved in a major effort to help revise international testing guidelines. Last month, for example, Sullivan began working with a new international committee charged with revising three guidelines widely used in chemical testing throughout the world. Her goal will be to advocate for good science, use fewer animals per test, and use alternatives whenever possible.
The committee is sponsored by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a hugely influential organization that coordinates the development of standardized chemical testing guidelines used by its 30 member countries.
Sullivan will represent ICAPO—the International Council on Animal Protection in OECD Programmes, a coalition of organizations formed in 2002 to lobby OECD—on the committee. ICAPO is considered an “invited expert” of OECD and its presence is crucial to changing the animal testing paradigm.
Sullivan sits on several other expert panels—two involved with revising guidelines for inhalation tests, and one focused on endocrine disrupters. Dr. Sandusky sits on the Existing Chemicals Task Force, and PCRM microbiologist Nancy Beck, Ph.D., serves on the Toxicogenomics Advisory Committee.
PCRM scientists and their ICAPO colleagues have an enormous job ahead of them. But they have already made significant progress. Since 2002, they have helped secure the acceptance of three new, nonanimal guidelines, including a replacement for the animal-based skin corrosion test. They also helped ensure that OECD retired the cruel LD50 lethal poisoning test.
More than half of the OECD’s guidelines call for animal testing. PCRM’s experts and other ICAPO scientists and policymakers are campaigning to revise as many of them as possible.