Statement on the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act
Since 2005, the Physicians Committee has worked to share with Congress the importance of fixing an integral part of the regulatory process – toxicity testing. We lack information on many chemicals, and how they affect a diverse human population, because current chemical management regulations are inadequate, and because we rely too heavily on slow, unreliable, and expensive animal tests. To ensure robust protection of public health and the environment, industry and regulators need to shift away from the current heavy reliance on animal tests and toward more human-relevant methods.
To protect public health and the environment, the National Research Council recommended in a 2007 report, Toxicity Testing in the 21st Century: A Vision and a Strategy, a shift away from this heavy reliance on animal tests and toward efficient and human-relevant methods.
The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act introduced by Sens. Tom Udall and David Vitter on March 10, 2015, contains many provisions that are consistent with this goal and the recommendations made in the report. Principles to replace and reduce animal-based test methods and to increase the use of information from human-based and mechanistic tools are integrated into the heart of the legislation.
However, the drafters have missed an important opportunity to reduce the numbers of animals used by failing to require that the chemical industry use nonanimal methods when available. This simple requirement is in place in other regions, such as the European Union, and is crucial to the rapid development and use of new methods and the continued improvements in toxicity testing required to offer superior protection for public health and the environment.
Inertia can be a powerful force. Too often, risk assessors at chemical companies and regulatory agencies default to their comfort zone—animal tests—and do not know of more effective, human-relevant methods. By requiring that human-relevant methods and strategies be used first, the focus of toxicity testing returns to human health effects and ways to prevent them.
“As a physician, I know we need research but think our current reliance on animal tests is outdated, bad science. All animals are similar in that they all feel pain and are capable of fear and suffering, but it is well known that except for that similarity, many react quite differently to chemical substances. I, therefore, think that reliance on animal testing risks having a false sense of security with some harmful substances and false worries over others. That fact plus my deepest conviction that animals are not test tubes and deserve humane care makes me want to do everything I can to try to bring chemical testing into the 21st century with less cruelty and better science.” - Marge P., Massachusetts