Today, it was my great honor to attend the presidential signing ceremony at the White House for a revision of TSCA, the Toxic Substances Control Act, with my colleague Sara Amundson from the Humane Society Legislative Fund. Today’s final action upgrades a 40-year-old federal law regulating the use of chemicals, and contains – for the first time in any broader environmental and health protection statute – an explicit decree from Congress to minimize animal testing and to create a clear preference for the development and use of alternative methods and strategies.
The section of the bill relating to animal testing, championed by Senators Cory Booker, D-NJ, and David Vitter, R-La. – and strongly supported by Senators Tom Udall, D-NM, Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., Sheldon Whitehouse, D-RI, Chairman of the Committee on Environment and Public Works Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., and committee ranking member Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., was a hard-fought battle. The inclusion of this language will almost certainly accelerate the movement away from animal tests for chemicals, pesticides, biocides, cosmetics, and other potentially dangerous substances in risk assessment protocols or for safety substantiation. So many lawmakers who pushed the measure across the finish line also attended the ceremony and celebration this morning.
President Obama’s signing of the bill gives the Environmental Protection Agency an unmistakable mandate from Congress that it must continue to embrace 21st century science and transition away from outdated animal testing protocols, which are expensive, slow, and often non-predictive of the human circumstance. I wrote recently that the EPA is dramatically decreasing animal tests for pesticide hazard assessments, and is now working to replace animal tests in its endocrine screening program. In fact, in 2016, the EPA proposed to waive skin lethal dose tests for pesticide formulations.
To be sure, this is a global movement, and there is progress on many fronts. In 2013, the European Union banned cosmetic animal testing and trade, and India followed suit the next year. Recently, we announced that Australia will soon join that club. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a consensus body of 34 member nations, including the United States, has embraced the concept of using the best new techniques and approaches for safety assessment, and that will also accelerate the move away from animal testing on the international stage.
We are making gains in other domains where animal testing has long been a feature of risk assessment. In 2012, our Humane Society International team in Europe worked to reduce animal testing requirements, perhaps by as much as 50 percent, for risk assessment for pesticides and biocides. We’ve also succeeded in convincing Brazil, Canada, the EU, and India to delete a notorious one-year dog pesticide-poisoning study requirement (the United States deleted the requirement back in 2007).
In the past year HSI also worked with the EU to adopt animal replacement methods for skin/eye irritation, skin allergy, skin lethal dose testing, and a reduced animal use test for reproductive toxicity under its chemicals law – potentially sparing 2.6 million animals the effects of these painful tests, while the Indian health ministry banned repeat animal testing of new drug imports.
In all, there is evidence around the globe that a combination of moral intention to reduce and eliminate animal testing and implementation of new technologies that give us superior options are ushering in a new paradigm in the realm of safety testing and drug efficacy work. This is the humane economy in action, and the new law on chemical testing is an enormous advance for our cause. The long-established practice of poisoning animals for a variety of purposes is on the way out, and it will be replaced by human biology that will give us better results and not leave a trail of animal victims in our wake.
— White House Archived (@ObamaWhiteHouse) June 22, 2016