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Report Card Grades: Environmental Working Group

Report Card Grades » Environmental Working Group » Grade: F

PETA first wrote to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) in 2001 because of its involvement in chemical-testing issues and its calls for increased testing on animals. At that time, we invited the organization to endorse a statement calling on the Environmental Protection Agency to increase its funding and use of non-animal testing methods.

EWG did not endorse PETA’s statement, and since that time, EWG has become more and more involved in calling for animal tests.

For example, EWG is the driving force behind the “Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.” This campaign calls on cosmetics manufacturers to test their products for effects such as cancer-causing potential, hormone disruption, skin allergy, genetic and nervous system toxicity, and birth defects—which, if conducted according to standard protocols, could spell suffering and death for hundreds of thousands of animals in laboratories. EWG’s report Skin Deep claims that such substances as salt, aloe vera gel, and chamomile are “unstudied chemicals” that should be tested, as should substances such as phosphoric acid. To make matters worse, this campaign runs counter to a European Union directive requiring that all animal testing on cosmetics be phased out by 2013. This campaign could also hurt cruelty-free companies, which tend to use gentler, safer, and more natural ingredients.

PETA wrote to EWG in August 2004 to express its concern that this campaign could turn into yet another animal testing boondoggle that does nothing to protect the public. PETA—together with other animal, environmental, and health advocacy organizations—subsequently issued a joint letter to EWG and other founding members of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics asking that the language of the compact be altered to clarify that no animal tests should be conducted. To date, EWG and its partners have refused to change the language of the compact.

EWG is now trying to enact legislation—misleadingly named the “Kid-Safe Chemicals Act”—that will result in another massive animal testing program. This plan will require chemicals to be tested using the most animal-intensive studies known—developmental and reproductive studies in which thousands of animals are killed in each test. PETA and other animal and health protection groups approached EWG with a proposal to alter the wording of the bill to include the development and use of non-animal methods. After much work and compromise on the part of the animal groups, EWG inexplicably pulled out of the discussions.

PETA and others have repeatedly explained to EWG officials that simply calling for more animal tests will do nothing to protect public health or the environment. The animal tests currently used are based on science that is decades old. Not only are they expensive and time-consuming, the animal tests also provide equivocal results with questionable relevance to human health that cannot be used to regulate dangerous chemicals effectively. Non-animal tests that are based on our current understanding of biology can give much more reliable and relevant results.

We have shown that the current animal-based testing scheme used by regulatory agencies is simply not working and that a switch to a modern, non-animal–based scheme—as was proposed by the National Academy of Sciences in July 2007—is critical. An essential feature of this new approach is a tiered paradigm, in which a comprehensive array of in vitro methods “provides a stronger, mechanistically based approach for environmental decision-making.” The report goes on to detail the components needed for such a program, the technology and tools required, and how to develop them, and it describes an approach to regulatory decision-making based on this new paradigm. But our attempts to encourage EWG to adopt this approach have been rebuffed.

More recently, in an attempt to appear more animal-friendly, EWG has launched a campaign ostensibly to protect “pets” from dangerous chemicals. Unfortunately, EWG continues to claim that animals, including dogs and cats, can predict what will happen to humans. And once again, EWG is merely using animals—this time, our companion animals—as an indicator of human health effects, saying, “[T]here’s a 20-year body of scientific literature showing that pets can be sentinels for human problems.” In an odd twist, even this “animal-friendly” campaign calls for more toxicity tests for toys, furniture, and food!

What You Can Do

Please let EWG know that no matter how it tries to “greenwash” the issue, the dogs, cats, rabbits, and guinea pigs poisoned in the chemical tests that EWG is calling for are no different from our beloved companion animals. It is time to embrace effective non-animal tests and stop deliberately poisoning dogs in laboratory experiments with the false excuse that they will somehow protect dogs who are lucky enough to be called “pets.”

Click here for points that you can include in your letter.

Send letters to:

Ken Cook
Environmental Working Group
1436 U St. N.W., Ste. 100
Washington, DC 20009
202-232-2592 (fax)

If you support any of the below organizations, please be aware that they are also part of the “Campaign for Safe Cosmetics” and that they should hear from you as well. Click here to use our easy form to contact them.

  • Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow
  • Breast Cancer Fund
  • Clean Water Fund
  • Commonweal
  • Friends of the Earth
  • Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition
  • National Black Environmental Justice Network
  • National Environmental Trust
  • Women’s Voices for the Earth

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