Last year, with strong bipartisan support, Congress amended federal government legislation regulating toxic chemicals for the first time in 40 years by passing the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. As a result of the involvement of animal-protection organizations, including PETA, the legislation directs the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reduce and replace the use of animals in chemical testing.
Yet the battle to save animals continues. Earlier this year, the EPA attempted to circumvent the requirements of the Lautenberg Act by broadly interpreting a requirement to determine whether new chemicals present unreasonable risks to health or the environment to mean that there must not be a risk under even the most unlikely of circumstances. This would obviously be impossible to determine, even if an endless number of animals died in chemical tests.
Further, the agency proposed a frightening “pre-prioritization” scheme that would have allowed the agency to require extensive animal testing for any or all of the 85,000 chemicals already in commerce, without opportunity for stakeholder input.
PETA repeatedly pressed the EPA to return to the agency’s previous policy of considering only the intended uses of chemicals and to remove or amend the pre-prioritization plan so that all existing information can be taken into account before requiring additional testing. Our scientists testified in public meetings, submitted extensive technical comments, and wrote to both the EPA Administrator and to the Office of Management and Budget.
Thankfully, the EPA listened to our concerns and to those of other stakeholders and deleted the controversial pre-prioritization phase. And it returned to its previous policy of focusing on the intended uses of chemicals and requiring companies to notify it before using chemicals in new ways.
It also reaffirmed its responsibility to reduce and replace animal testing and to use a stepwise approach to information gathering that emphasizes using already available data on hazard and exposure risks.
These developments will prevent an untold number of animals from suffering in deadly chemical tests. They comply with our legislators’ intent in passing the Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act and will better protect public health by applying more thoughtful testing strategies. For our part, we will continue to work with government agencies and legislators to drive real change for animals.