In a very unlikely and surprising circumstance for animals, Rep. Frank Pallone, a long-time friend to The HSUS, has been standing in the way of an opportunity to reduce animal testing for chemicals, contained within legislation to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act. But it’s not too late for Rep. Pallone to change course and join with the vast majority of lawmakers who are embracing reforms that will both help animals and provide more reliable, cost-effective testing for as many as 85,000 chemicals in commercial use in our society, and for which risk assessments are essential.
The House and Senate are working now to reconcile separate versions of TSCA reform bills passed last year. Today, 39 Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives, led by Congressman Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y., and Don Beyer, D-Va., sent a letter to Rep. Pallone, who is the chief negotiator for the House side, urging him to support “language offered by Senate negotiators that will reduce animal testing for chemical safety testing and place a priority on newer, more cost-effective, and reliable methods.” The original language to reduce, and in some cases replace, animal testing was unanimously approved by the Senate, with Senators Cory Booker and David Vitter leading the fight for the new science-based standards. Senator Tom Udall and Chairman Jim Inhofe also embraced the language and have been strong advocates for it in negotiations with the House. The provisions have the support of a number of key non-governmental organizations as well.
“The final requested changes ensure that existing information is used before more testing is requested; that tests that also replace, and not just reduce, animal tests are considered; and finally, that industry consider non-animal approaches when performing testing prior to submitting an application to EPA,” wrote the House lawmakers in their letter to Rep. Pallone.
So many lawmakers and advocacy groups recognize that animal tests are not only outdated and cruel, but they are retarding progress in doing efficient and reliable risk assessment. Since 1976, when TSCA was enacted, only five chemicals have been removed from the marketplace. The whole risk assessment program for chemicals is broken, and that includes the animal testing component, which is plainly unreliable and inefficient. The costs run into the millions for testing a single chemical with animals, and it takes years to complete the work, typically producing inconclusive results. High throughput tests and in vitro testing methods will enable us to test millions of chemicals, at different doses, in a rapid fashion and in a far less costly way.
With TSCA, we’re on the verge of a genuine breakthrough in public policy and that’s why we’re grateful to Rep. Pallone’s colleagues for pushing him to give way and to embrace 21st-century science and humanity.