About Toxicity Testing

The Physicians Committee

About Toxicity Testing

Since the 1930s, scientists have used cats, dogs, rats, mice, primates, and other animals to test the safety of chemicals, cosmetics, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and many other products. It was thought that these tests would predict the potential for harm to humans.

Not only can toxicity tests on animals result in unalleviated pain, suffering, and death, but it is now widely acknowledged that these tests are not particularly predictive of the substances’ effects in humans. This realization, coupled with advances in scientific research and ethical theory, has led to calls for a new kind of toxicology testing anchored in human biology and an understanding of biological pathways. 

Ideally, a system of nonanimal methods could assess many chemicals in a few weeks at a cost of around $25,000—compared to current estimates of $6 million and three years per chemical.1 In the short-term, assessing categories of chemicals using a combination of cell- and computer-based approaches and informed by information on levels of human and environmental exposure, using Integrated Testing Strategies is the best approach.2

Learn more about toxicity testing by visiting the FAQ and Animal Experimentation Issues pages.

1. Testing for carcinogens: Shift from animals to automation gathers steam—slowly. Schmidt C. JNCI2009;101(13):910-912.
2. Using chemical categories to fill data gaps in hazard assessment. van Leeuwen K, Schultz TW, Henry T, Diderich B, Veith GD. SAR QSAR Environ Res. 2009;20(3-4):207-220.

Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.