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PCRM Presents Humane Testing Alternatives to Global Scientific Community

It’s been 50 years since the “3 Rs”—refinement, reduction, and replacement of animals in science—were proposed. But scientists continue to conduct cruel and irrelevant experiments, killing millions of animals. At the Seventh World Congress on Alternatives and Animal Use in the Life Sciences, held later this month in Rome, PCRM scientists will propose humane, human-relevant alternatives.

During the “Areas of Animal Use” day of the conference, PCRM toxicologist Kristie Sullivan, M.P.H., will present “An Examination of New Chemical Regulation Policies as a Means to Revolutionize Toxicity Testing.” The abstract is one of only a few chosen by the program committee for an oral presentation because of its compelling subject matter.rat

In the presentation, Ms. Sullivan will discuss the revision of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the primary U.S. law that regulates industrial chemicals. Under TSCA, scientists have conducted tests on animals in laboratories to obtain information on the potential hazards of chemicals to humans and the environment. But later this year, Congress will consider a sweeping revision to TSCA. This will be the first major revision in the law's 33-year history.

“We want to make sure the revision benefits both people and animals,” says Ms. Sullivan. “It is essential that new legislation governing the regulation of chemicals invests in scientific advancements that reduce the use of animals in toxicity testing and better protect human health and the environment.”

She will review three chemical regulation frameworks that Congress may consider as models for a revised TSCA: the Kid-Safe Chemicals Act, proposed in 2008 but not passed; the Environmental Protection Agency’s Chemical Assessment and Management Program; and an Intelligent Testing Strategy approach. Intelligent testing strategies use all the available information about a chemical instead of conducting a set of animal tests. Her analysis will compare both the impact of the different frameworks on the numbers of animals killed in laboratories and the frameworks’ efficiency, measured as the numbers of chemicals that could be evaluated after one and 10 years.

The abstract’s other co-authors include PCRM toxicologists Chad Sandusky, Ph.D., and Nancy Beck, Ph.D., and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals science policy adviser Catherine Willett, Ph.D.

Two other PCRM abstracts, presented as posters, will also focus on strategies to save animals from chemical testing.

“Integrated Testing Strategies for Acute Inhalation Toxicity Assessment,” also authored by Dr. Sandusky and Ms. Sullivan, examines the development of nonanimal models that could assess acute inhalation toxicity.

The acute inhalation test is a procedure in which industrial chemicals, pesticides, and consumer products are tested by forcing rats or mice into small cylinders—barely as large as their bodies to ensure they cannot escape the test chemical—and piping the compounds into the cylinder.

“Because acute inhalation tests on animals are inhumane and unreliable, the scientific community is very interested in intelligent testing strategies that can better assess respiratory system mechanics and toxicity responses in humans,” says Ms. Sullivan.

 “Application of an Intelligent Testing Strategy to the U.S. EPA Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program,” co-authored by Ms. Sullivan and Dr. Willett, presents an alternative, intelligent testing strategy that would save animals and resources and result in more efficient screening and characterization of endocrine-disrupting chemicals than the current EPA program.

A fourth PCRM poster, “A Novel Approach for the Assessment of Psychological Suffering Among Animals: Chimpanzee Case Study,” presents ongoing research to determine the prevalence of psychiatric disorders in chimpanzees previously used in laboratories and now living in sanctuaries. The study was conducted by PCRM primatologist Debra Durham, Ph.D., and PCRM’s director of research policy Hope Ferdowsian, M.D., M.P.H.

Based on pilot data, Drs. Ferdowsian and Durham have found that the chimpanzees have a high prevalence of symptoms of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other anxiety disorders, much like human victims of traumatic experiences. The study’s findings underscore the failure of existing regulations to prevent psychological suffering.

PCRM’s presentations are especially timely as Congress prepares to consider two important pieces of legislation.

The Great Ape Protection Act would end invasive research on the chimpanzees remaining in laboratories—and release federally owned chimpanzees to permanent sanctuaries. And revisions to the Toxic Substances Control Act could shift toxicity testing away from animals toward modern, human-relevant methods.

In addition to the oral and poster presentations, PCRM will also participate in a worldwide animal protection conference satellite meeting during the congress. The meeting will be an opportunity for all animal protection groups and animal protection advocates not associated with specific groups to determine ways to collaborate to replace the use of animals in research.

Dr. Sandusky and Ms. Sullivan will also host a planning meeting for members of the International Council for Animal Protection in OECD Programmes (ICAPO), of which PCRM is currently the Secretariat.

Visit PCRM’s Great Ape Protection Act Web page to urge your U.S. representative to co-sponsor the Great Ape Protection Act and sign up to persuade Congress to reform chemical testing.

Kristie Sullivan, M.P.H.
Kristie Sullivan, M.P.H.

PCRM Online, August 2009

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