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  1. Good Science Digest

  2. Oct 7, 2020

New EPA Policy Will Stop Painful LD50 Skin Test

caged rabbit
Photo: Getty Images

Hooray! Today, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a new draft policy that will allow companies to avoid conducting a painful rabbit test for new pesticides and cleaning products, saving 750 animals each year.

The EPA will take public comments before finalizing the policy.

Companies are required to conduct certain toxicology tests in order to register or market chemicals, and many of these are animal tests. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has been working, together with other groups and companies, to replace animal tests with better and more human-relevant tests and to reduce the number of animals killed in tests by eliminating, where possible, tests that aren’t used to make regulatory decisions.

Three of the most common—and most painful—tests conducted are referred to as “lethal dose 50” or “LD50” tests. They are designed to find the amount of a chemical that kills half of a population. In these tests animals are forced to inhale chemicals, ingest chemicals, or have chemicals applied to their skin, until they die from the chemical’s effects or are killed at the end of the test. 

Spurred by urging from the Physicians Committee and the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, scientists from the EPA and the National Toxicology Program Interagency Center for the Evaluation of Alternative Toxicological Methods (NICEATM) analyzed one of these tests, the LD50 skin test, and determined that it wasn’t necessary to make decisions about the safety of new chemicals and pesticides. This is an extension of a 2016 policy which will apply to more chemicals and pesticides, saving many more animals each year.

This decision not only saves animals—it also frees up resources at companies and at the EPA, funds that can be spent on replacing even more animal tests with human-relevant methods, helping to ensure that the EPA realizes its mission to protect human health and the environment while achieving the goal it shares with the Physicians Committee of eventually replacing all animal tests. 

This latest policy is just the most recent in a slew of new EPA policies reducing or replacing animals in toxicology testing.


Policy Animals Saved Each Year
October 2020: Skin Toxicity Test B 750 Rabbits
July 2020: Fish Testing 220 Fish
February 2020: Bird Testing 720 Birds
April 2018: Skin Sensitization ~500 Mice or Guinea Pigs
March 2016: Skin Toxicity Test A 3,000-7,500 Rabbits

The Physicians Committee will urge companies to follow the guidance allowed by the policy to avoid conducting these tests and will also continue to work to replace all animal tests with more effective and human-relevant nonanimal methods.

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