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Government plans to replace animals in toxicity studies

January 10th, 2012

Neal Barnard M.D. PCRM

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just announced a joint effort to use high-throughput robotics—instead of animals—to test 10,000 chemicals and drugs for potential toxicity. I’ve asked PCRM’s Chad Sandusky, Ph.D., to provide details:

Current testing is largely based on experiments on animals—rodents, rabbits, dogs—and uses methods that are cruel, time-consuming, expensive, and in some cases use thousands of animals in a single test. For example, a reproductive toxicity study uses 2,600 animals and requires a minimum of two years at a cost of $380,000. PCRM toxicologists and government affairs staff have pushed government and industry scientists to implement nonanimal methods.

The new method was developed after the National Research Council issued a mandate (often referred to as Tox21) several years ago to replace antiquated animal-based (in vivo) toxicity testing with testing using mostly human cells and tissues. At PCRM’s toxicology department, we are convinced this will offer not only a dramatic reduction in animal use, but also a faster and cheaper approach to safety testing.

While Congress has been drafting revisions to the law that regulates chemicals (known as the Toxic Substances Control Act or TSCA), we’ve met with congressional offices to make sure that new nonanimal methods are required as they become more widely available. We’ve successfully gained support for these important changes, so animal testing will be greatly reduced—and eventually eliminated—when the bill is passed.

To learn more about how replacing animals in toxicity testing with this technology will make the world a safer place for people—and for the millions of animals now used in these cruel tests—visit www.ReformToxicityTesting.org.

(Dr. Barnard is the president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.)

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