By: Jessica Sandler, PETA
Starting this year, an Environmental Defense Fund (EDF)-sponsored chemical toxicity testing program will condemn millions of animals to painful experiments and death. Announced last October, the Cooperative Program for High Production Volume (HPV) U.S. Industrial Chemicals calls for six years' worth of tests on 2,800 chemicals imported or manufactured in amounts greater than 1 million pounds per year. Together with Vice President Al Gore and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the EDF launched the testing scheme claiming that there currently is not enough toxicological data available for 75 percent of the top-volume chemicals in commercial use. Yet neither the EPA nor the EDF suggests how the proposed frenzy of testing will actually safeguard public health, other than to say that the resulting data will help them set priorities regarding which chemicals need further testing.
The tests will be conducted on mice, rats, rabbits, guinea pigs, birds, and fish by chemical manufacturers and contract laboratories, and will include the Lethal Dose (LD-50) test that forces groups of animals to inhale or eat poisons until half of them die. Other animals will have corrosive chemicals applied to their abraded skin.
The claim that the HPV chemicals lack crucial test data is disputed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, whose researchers have found that ample data already exist for most of the chemicals. Many of the chemicals that have been proposed for testing include known hazardous chemicals, such as hydrofluoric acid, and known safe substances such as sorbitol, a common food ingredient. Even cyclonite- a substance used as rat poison-is proposed for chronic toxicity tests on animals, including rats. The new program relies on crude animal testing methods rather than available non-animal alternatives that are faster, cheaper, and would avoid immense suffering. Animal tests may actually work in favor of the chemical industry in many cases because they are frequently inconclusive and do not accurately predict what will happen in humans exposed to the chemicals at different levels over varying periods of time. Animal data could actually exonerate chemicals that have already been shown to be harmful to humans.
Despite these serious concerns, the program has been placed on the fast track by Vice President Gore's office. Yet as it stands now, this costly program serves neither the public nor industry, and will result in extreme animal suffering while having no effect on protecting the public or the environment from actual hazardous exposures.
PETA has contacted Vice President Gore, the EPA, and the EDF to request a delay in the start of the program until existing human- and nonhuman-based data are adequately reviewed for each chemical, and until non-animal tests are validated and incorporated into the test protocols.