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New Chemical-Testing Bills Are First Step for Consumer and Animal Protection

This Mother’s Day, Congress could give mothers the gift of a safer future for their children. Bills introduced last month to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act could do that by requiring the adoption of crucial reforms that protect human health and the environment and develop more nonanimal chemical tests. Unfortunately, the bills don’t give the Environmental Protection Agency authority to require the use of these tests.

ratBoth Senate and House bills overhaul the 34-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act by tightening regulations on chemicals used to produce industrial and consumer goods, including toys and cleaning products. But, says PCRM toxicologist Kristie Sullivan, M.P.H., the bills do not go far enough in addressing a key safety issue: the limitations of animal-based toxicity tests now used to evaluate a chemical’s potential risks to public health and the environment.

The bills also need to provide financial and logistical support to implement the approach outlined in the National Research Council report Toxicity Testing in the 21st Century: A Vision and a Strategy. The report endorsed tests based on human cells and cell components instead of animals.

As a result of work done by PCRM scientists over the past year, the bills compel the the Environmental Protection Agency to develop more nonanimal methods and to adopt an integrated testing strategy approach, instead of mandating a long list of animal tests for every single chemical. Landmark provisions calling for reductions in animal-based testing are a great start. However, to ensure that the NRC report is fully implemented, companies should be required to use nonanimal tests as they become available. PCRM scientists will be working on Capitol Hill in the coming year to make sure that these protections are strengthened.

“The application of animal-testing results to real-world human health issues can be extremely difficult,” Sullivan said. “Furthermore, using animal tests to evaluate every chemical on the market would be costly, inefficient, and virtually impossible given the huge number of chemicals involved. The best way to protect human health and the environment is to replace animal tests with more modern methods, and these bills are a good start at making that happen.”

Because evaluating every industrial chemical using animal tests could take decades, the bills’ provisions to streamline and modernize testing methods mean better protection for people and wildlife. “We hope that these important reforms remain intact as these bills move forward,” says Nancy Beck, Ph.D., PCRM scientific and policy adviser.

To learn more about the new bills and what you can do to help, visit

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

PCRM Online, May 2010

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