U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler signed a memorandum directing the EPA to “aggressively reduce” animal testing, including reducing mammal study requests and cutting funding for studies using animals as test subjects 30 percent by 2025 and completely eliminating them by 2035.
Wheeler’s September memo also announced EPA was awarding $4.25 million to five universities to advance the research and development of alternative test methods for evaluating the safety of chemicals, to minimize, and if possible eliminate, the need for animal testing.
Wheeler’s memo states any mammal studies requested or funded by EPA after 2035 will require administrator approval on a case-by-case basis. It also directs leadership and staff in the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention and the Office of Research and Development to prioritize ongoing efforts and direct existing resources toward activities demonstrating measurable effects on the reduction of animal testing while still ensuring the protection of human health and the environment.
Critics of EPA’s animal testing decision say it could put people at greater risk and it is odd the Trump administration evidently believes computer models can’t be trusted on the topic of climate change but computer simulations of biological responses to new chemicals and products are trustworthy.
‘Not the Rational Way’
The new EPA policy is premature and overly restrictive, says Steve Milloy, founder of JunkScience.com and a policy advisor to The Heartland Institute, which publishes Environment & Climate News.
“The Trump administration shouldn’t just broad-brush everything and say animal testing can’t be done,” said Milloy. “This not the rational way to approach an issue. If there is something really important they need to do and needs to be tested on an animal to ensure safety, then industry and government ought to be able do that.
“The chemical industry has developed alternatives to the testing of products on animals; however, not everyone within and outside the industry accepts these alternatives as sufficient to protect human health and environmental safety, yet EPA and animal rights groups say it is okay to get rid of the tests,” Milloy said.
‘A Complex Issue’
Milloy says there good arguments on both sides of the animal testing question.
“It’s one of those issues that cuts both ways,” said Milloy. “I’ve talked with people in the chemical industry who say although they are working on computer models and biological simulations, it is not very easy to model biological systems.
“On the other hand, rats and other animals aren’t people, and particular mechanisms and biological responses to chemicals appearing in animals may not exist in humans, and vice versa,” Milloy said. “Animal testing was a lot more important at the beginning of EPA when the health effects of chemicals were not very well known, but this is not the case anymore, since we’ve had plenty of experience with chemicals in all sorts of circumstances, so animal tests may be less important in many instances. Still, it is a complex issue, and a blanket prohibition is unjustified.”
Kenneth Artz ([email protected]) writes from Dallas, Texas