Written by PETA
Several years ago, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decided to tackle the issue of determining the safety of nanomaterials—teeny-tiny particles that measure less than one-tenth of a micrometer (even smaller than the brain of the average Michael Vick fan) As soon as we learned about this initiative, our staff scientists began communicating with the EPA, urging the agency to use the most modern and sophisticated testing methods instead of automatically relying on archaic animal tests, as government agencies historically have, basically for no better reason than "we've always done it that way."
Last week, our scientists' hard work paid off: The EPA issued its final "Nanomaterials Research Strategy," and it incorporates many of PETA's recommendations. While the original draft still relied heavily on animal tests, the final plan takes full advantage of non-animal test methods. This will greatly reduce the number of animals killed in tests assessing the toxicity of nanomaterials.
Just as important, the research strategy reiterates the principles outlined in the strategic plan the EPA released this spring, which calls for identifying and using non-animal testing methods that will ultimately replace all animal tests for nanomaterials.
This is a win-win for PETA, animals, and the EPA. Oh, and the public wins, too, because reducing the use of animals in assessing the toxicity of nanomaterials also improves the agency's ability to assess hazards to humans.
Written by Alisa Mullins
Finally. After PETA has spent the past 10 years hammering away at the Environmental Protection Agency over its absurdly archaic, repetitive, and wasteful—not to mention cruel—chemical-toxicity tests on animals, the agency has at last released a strategic plan for improving toxicity testing that basically says, "Yeah, what PETA said."
OK, that's not exactly what it says, but the report is very encouraging, nonetheless. What it does say is that the current testing programs, which rely largely on animal tests, are costly, time-consuming, and basically not up to the task of accurately and adequately assessing the toxicity of tens of thousands of chemicals.
As the Boston Globe wrote just this week, even many researchers are now acknowledging that animal research "isn't even the best science" and that "[r]eplacing animals with human tissue has already proven to be [a] good business bet."
So, the EPA is now proposing a new "paradigm" that focuses on computer models, molecular biology, and cell cultures, using data from the human genome project, clinical trials, exposure assessments, and other technologies that the EPA calls "new"—even though many of them have been around for more than a decade now. Some of the technologies are even being developed at the EPA!
Here's a direct quote from the report: "The overall goal of this strategy is to provide the tools and approaches to move from a near exclusive use of animal tests for predicting human health effects to a process that relies more heavily on in vitro assays, especially those using human cell lines."
Can I hear an "Amen"?
The new EPA report is based on the findings of a National Research Council report released in 2007 that said essentially the same thing. This makes sense, because the EPA actually commissioned that report—though it's taken the agency nearly two years to evaluate the report's findings. What can we say? The wheels of justice grind slowly.
Now, if we can just get all parts of the EPA to act on its own report, we'll be getting somewhere. I say that because, just yesterday, PETA research associate Joe Manuppello testified at a hearing (which we called for) about proposed high production volume chemical tests that would kill another 10,000 animals. The proposed tests involve 15 chemicals, including sorbic acid (a naturally occurring fatty acid), castor oil, and oxalic acid, all of which are already known to be either safe or extremely toxic, based on years of experience and existing data from previous tests. At that hearing, we pointed out that the tests contradicted the EPA's own strategic plan as well as the basic animal welfare principles that the agency put into effect 10 years ago (under pressure from PETA). Those principles state that chemicals should not be retested if sufficient data already exist concerning the safety or toxicity of a chemical. According to all reports, the EPA officials found Joe's testimony riveting. (You have to wonder—if PETA can find the data, why can't the EPA? Is it just a matter of caring enough to find it?)
EPA, you're moving in the right direction. Now we just need all parts of your agency to walk the talk. Until you do, you can bet that we'll be pushing you every step of the way.
Courtesy of the good folks in PETA’s Regulatory Testing Division—who have been working behind the scenes with these agencies for years to get them to admit that their bloated animal testing programs (which are responsible for the suffering and death of hundreds of millions of animals) are outdated, ineffective, and, frankly, absurd—here’s a little rundown on what this all means, and how it came about:
First of all, this is a significant about-face for the NTP and the EPA—both of whom have been shockingly resistant to incorporating modern science into their toxicity testing programs. It looks like the United States is finally beginning to realize (as Europe has known for some time and as the animal protection community has been advocating for years) that the public and the environment can be better protected through non-animal in vitro tests based on well-understood biological principles than by throwing wads of cash and millions upon millions of lives into the bottomless pit of animal testing.
Fighting this entrenched, bureaucratic mentality over the past couple of decades hasn’t been easy—and, as usual, we’ve had to use a two-pronged attack to get it done: While our Regulatory Testing Division comments on each animal testing plan that the EPA and the NTP puts forward, works directly with top corporations doing the testing and finding alternatives, testifies at government workshops and before Congress, and, occasionally, sues the government to disclose their deliberations about promoting animal tests, our Campaigns Department gets out the billboards, the bullhorns, and the bunny suits and shouts about these ludicrous, wasteful experiments to anyone who will listen. During this time, PETA has convinced the Department of Transportation to stop testing corrosive substances on rabbits, followed Al Gore around on his campaign stops with a 10-foot rabbit to convince him to stop pushing EPA animal tests, and worked (ever-so-patiently) to persuade regulatory agencies which still believe that it’s important, for example, to keep testing asbestos on animals (the NTP) and which have failed to ban a single toxic industrial chemical in more than a decade (the EPA) that maybe it’s time to stop testing on animals and start using modern science instead. We’ve also funded the development and incorporation of non-animal test methods to the tune of more than ¾ million dollars in recent years.
This new collaboration is certainly something different, and it’s a promising step in the right direction—but it has to be backed up with Congressional will and funding if it’s going to get anywhere. A new entity must be created with the resources to get the job done—it can not be left to the EPA and the NTP. The fact that the head of the human genome project is involved with this is a good sign—it’s going to take an intense, focused effort on the scale of the human genome project to get the job done.
So we’re hoping that the prevailing wind surrounding the National Research Council’s vision and the newly announced collaboration between the NTP and the EPA will provide the momentum necessary to overcome the inertia that has characterized the American government’s attitude to toxicity testing for decades, and which causes the suffering and death of more than 15 million animals every year.
For more information on what you can do to help animals used for experimentation, check out StopAnimalTests.com.
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Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights? Read more.