Chemical Testing Basics
The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) was signed into law in 1976 and has been the prevailing legislation governing industrial chemical production and distribution ever since. TSCA requires a company to notify the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) when it plans to manufacture a chemical. The EPA then assesses the potential hazards this chemical might pose to humans or the environment.
On June 22, 2016, President Obama signed the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (Lautenberg Act) into law. The Physicians Committee supports this new law because it modernizes TSCA and allows the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to protect public health and the environment by prioritizing nonanimal testing methods.
The Lautenberg Act requires the use of scientifically-justified methods that reduce or replace vertebrate animal tests. Because of this mandate it is now codified into law that progress away from animal experiments continues.
One way the Lautenberg Act does this is by requiring, within two years, that the EPA publish a strategic plan to “promote the development and implementation of alternative test methods and strategies to reduce, refine, or replace vertebrate animal testing…” This language facilitates the use of nonanimal testing methods and provides clarity that modern, human-relevant scientific methods should be prioritized over animal tests.
Another example of how the Lautenberg Act reduces and replaces animal experiments is by ensuring that the chemical industry “first attempt to develop the information by means of an alternative test method or strategy identified by the [EPA]… before conducting new vertebrate animal testing.” This language requires companies developing information to first use nonanimal testing method, if they are available, before conducting an animal experiment.
Congress took over a decade to update TSCA, and the Physicians Committee worked tirelessly throughout the contentious process to ensure that legislative language would reduce and replace animals. We are pleased that Lautenberg Act requires alternatives to animal tests be considered and used, and places restrictions on animal testing—which are stronger than current law—that will over time facilitate the development and adoption of human-relevant, nonanimal methods. Because information obtained on chemicals will be human-relevant, products Americans use will be safer.
As implementation of the Lautenberg Act ensues, the Physicians Committee will continue to be on the front line, advocating to replace animal tests with human-relevant alternatives.