The Environmental Protection Agency has released a draft interim policy recommending a move away from animal testing for pesticides and industrial chemicals. Specifically, the draft policy encourages the use of non-animal test methods to determine the likelihood of these chemicals to cause allergic skin reactions in humans.
The traditional animal test for skin allergy involves the application of a test substance to the ears of mice who are later killed and their organs examined for signs of an allergic response. Alternatively, chemical substances are injected under or rubbed onto a guinea pig’s shaved skin, which is then observed for an allergic response, including redness, inflammation, and itchiness.
But recent studies comparing the animal tests to new non-animal approaches have found that the non-animal tests actually provide more predictive information about human skin allergies.
The skin allergy test is one of six extremely cruel animal tests, nicknamed the “six-pack”, carried out on more than 500 new pesticide products brought to market each year in the United States. EPA has been working to reduce its reliance on these tests, and recently said in a letter to stakeholders that its “immediate goal is to significantly reduce the use of animals in acute effects testing [for pesticides].” We applaud the agency and look forward to additional strides in this area.
Advancing the science to end animal testing has been a priority for us, for many years. On the global stage, Humane Society International has been racking up a host of wins, including working to rid the world of a cruel and needless pesticide test carried out on dogs, in which beagles are fed pesticide-laced food for an entire year before they are killed and dissected for study. Just last week we persuaded Japan to end this test, and we are working to end it in South Korea, which is the last remaining country where this test is still performed. Also in South Korea, HSI drove the passage of a bill amending the country’s chemical law, which now requires companies and government authorities to use all available non-animal testing methods, with animal use possible only as a last resort.
In 2016, the Humane Society Legislative Fund and the Humane Society of the United States pushed successfully for passage of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, a revision of the Toxic Substances Control Act. This revision included strong new language that requires EPA’s Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics to minimize animal testing and give preference to the development and use of non-animal alternative test methods and strategies.
Around the globe, the momentum to reduce and eliminate animal testing is gathering pace. There are a host of new technologies that do a superior job assessing the safety of products we use or are exposed to every day and regulators are beginning to rely on them. The new draft policy from EPA is part of this momentum and is something all Americans can (and should) get behind, both to help animals and to improve human and environmental safety.
EPA is now requesting comments on the draft policy. Please join us in expressing your support for the agency’s proposal to encourage the use of non-animal tests for skin sensitization for pesticide and toxic chemicals by sending your comments to EPAcomments@humanesociety.org by June 6.