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PCRM’s Toxicity Testing Campaign Could Save Millions of Animals


Congress is holding hearings to discuss revisions to the Toxic Substances Control Act. But if lawmakers don't embrace modern testing methods, millions of animals may be killed in toxicity tests that are designed to gather information on the potential hazards of chemicals to humans, but often fail. Last month, PCRM submitted testimony before the House to outline a solution for effective chemical regulation that would prevent animal suffering and better protect humans and the environment.

In her testimony, PCRM toxicologist Kristie Sullivan, M.P.H., stressed that protecting human health and the environment must be the goal of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). To achieve this goal, chemical testing methods and policy must be reformed. Congress’ revision to TSCA, which is administered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), will be the first in the law's 33-year history.

TSCA, the primary U.S. law that regulates industrial chemicals, is trying to meet the demand for quicker assessment of a wider range of chemicals. But evaluation of the tremendous backlog of chemicals—between 30,000 and 80,000—is not feasible because toxicity testing methods rely on animal testing. Current testing is largely based on experiments on animals—particularly rodents, rabbits, and dogs—and uses methods that were developed as long ago as the 1930s and 1940s. These tests are slow, inaccurate, open to uncertainty and manipulation, and do not adequately protect human health.

“To effectively assess both existing and new industrial chemicals, we must reform the way toxicity testing is conducted, including the science used to evaluate chemicals,” says Sullivan. “If carried out thoughtfully, reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act would result in more effective chemical regulation programs that save time, money, and hundreds of thousands of animals—while protecting human health and the environment.”

In her testimony, Sullivan recommended that TSCA incorporate recommendations made by the National Research Council’s Toxicity Testing in the 21st Century: A Vision and Strategy. The report, which the EPA commissioned, calls for the development of human-based in vitro cell and tissue tests instead of animal tests for hazard assessment and chemical regulation. Sullivan also outlined seven common-sense principles for prioritizing chemicals for toxicity testing.

Other organizations co-authoring the testimony with PCRM included People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Humane Society of the United States.

The Senate holds its first hearing today, and it is widely suspected that at least one bill will be introduced to amend TSCA in the next couple of months. PCRM science and policy experts will be working to ensure this or any other new legislation cements badly needed chemical testing reform.

Visit PCRM’s new 21st-Century Chemical Regulation Web pages at to learn more about TSCA and chemical testing, read PCRM’s complete testimony to Congress, join the Facebook cause, and sign up to persuade Congress to reform chemical testing.

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

PCRM Online, December 2009

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