FDA Steps Back in Time in Push to Test Sunscreens on Animals

For Immediate Release:
July 9, 2024

Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382


PETA is calling for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reverse course on its insistence that sunscreen products be tested on animals in order for them to stay on the market. After years of closed-door meetings that made it clear to sunscreen manufacturers that they must conduct additional tests on animals, documents that explain these demands are now public.

Letters and meeting notes between sunscreen manufacturers and the FDA demonstrate that, in stark contrast to the agency’s frequent public claims that it supports modern test methods relevant to human health, it repeatedly refused to consider the use of non-animal testing approaches and evidence from decades of sunscreen use. Ignoring its own advice from its 2017 Predictive Toxicology Roadmap and Congress’ work to encourage modern test methods through the FDA Modernization Act 2.0, the documents indicate that the agency is more interested in checking a box by pushing decades-old animal tests rather than using modern science to thoroughly assess the products’ safety in humans.

As evidenced by the newly released correspondence, the sunscreen industry submitted extensive existing data for each sunscreen ingredient in question and proposed non-animal testing strategies to address any further questions from the FDA. Nevertheless, the agency insists that the industry must conduct these tests on animals, which experts agree aren’t predictive of human health outcomes and don’t take advantage of all toxicity data already available for assessment.

“The FDA isn’t fulfilling its responsibility to use the best, most human-relevant science to protect the public,” said Dr. Amy Clippinger, managing director of PETA’s Regulatory Toxicology Department. “The agency should apply the most reliable and relevant strategies to evaluate sunscreens, including the use of existing safety data, ongoing clinical and consumer safety assessments, and non-animal test methods, instead of insisting that companies conduct decades-old animal tests that have been shown not to translate to human health outcomes.”

Some of the tests requested include developmental and reproductive toxicity tests, in which thousands of animals over multiple generations are exposed to a chemical, and carcinogenicity tests, in which hundreds of animals are exposed to a chemical for their entire life. However, the findings from these tests often don’t translate to humans and FDA experts themselves have noted that there are scientific drawbacks inherent in carcinogenicity testing in animals. These contradictions indicate a profound disconnect within the agency.

The FDA has the authority to encourage—and companies and consumers should insist on—the use of modern, non-animal testing approaches to ensure that people continue to have access to new and existing sunscreen products.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to experiment on”—points out that Every Animal Is Someone. For more information, please visit PETA.org or follow the group on X, Facebook, or Instagram.

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