EPA to Phase Out Chemical Testing on Mammals

From the WebMD Archives

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 11, 2019 -- The eventual elimination of chemical testing on mammals was announced Tuesday by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

It plans a 30% reduction in the number of studies that require the use of mammals to test potentially harmful chemicals by 2025, and to halt such studies by 2035, although some approvals may be granted on a case-by-case basis, The New York Times reported.

The EPA also announced that it will provide $4.25 million to four universities and a medical center -- working on new ways of chemical testing that do not use animals.

"We can protect human health and the environment by using cutting-edge, ethically sound science in our decision-making that efficiently and cost-effectively evaluates potential effects without animal testing," EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a memo announcing the changes, The Times reported.

The EPA has long required that new chemicals be tested on a variety of animals -- including rats, dogs, birds and fish -- to assess their toxicity. The percentage of tests that involve mammals was not immediately available from the EPA.

The policy shift was welcomed by animal rights groups but questioned by environmentalists and scientists who said animal testing of chemicals is needed to protect human health.

"We are really excited as this has been something we've wanted for quite some time," Kitty Block, president and chief executive, Humane Society of the United States, told The Times. "The alternatives are the future. They're more efficient and save lives."

Animal testing of chemicals is still necessary because cells in a petri dish can't yet replace whole living systems, according to Jennifer Sass, a senior scientist at the environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council.

"The EPA's deadline is arbitrary," Sass told The Times. "Our interest isn't in speed, it's getting it right. We want proper animal testing because we don't want harmful chemicals to end up in our food, air and water."