Six million dollars and three years. That’s what it takes for the Environmental Protection Agency to test the safety of just one chemical on animals—and there are tens of thousands of chemicals waiting to be tested. The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (S. 697) is the only bill under consideration by Congress that will make that process faster and cheaper by requiring modern testing methods that better protect public health.

As a toxicologist, I work to make chemical testing more human relevant—and less reliant on animal tests, which do not adequately protect human health. Scientists have been working to modernize toxicology test methods by moving away from animals and toward advanced methods in molecular and cellular biology and computing. I applaud the Senate for introducing a bill that will speed this transition.


Continued reliance on animal testing is not only costly and time-consuming—it’s also dangerous to human health. Scientists using results from these tests can only theorize that humans will respond to the chemicals in the same way animals do. That’s risky business: Ninety-two percent of animal-tested drugs fail in humans, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

But the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, introduced by Sens. Tom UdallTom UdallRubio vows to slow-walk Biden's China, Spain ambassador nominees Senate confirms Thomas Nides as US ambassador to Israel Flake, Cindy McCain among latest Biden ambassadors confirmed after delay MORE (D-N.M.) and David VitterDavid Bruce VitterBiden inaugural committee to refund former senator's donation due to foreign agent status Bottom line Lysol, Charmin keep new consumer brand group lobbyist busy during pandemic MORE (R-La.), brings toxicity testing into the 21st century—and in line with recommendations by the National Academy of Sciences—by encouraging advanced methods using robots, human cells, and tissues that are often faster and cheaper than animal tests.

It is proven technology that’s already being used by the federal government. The Tox21 consortium—which includes the National Institutes of Health, the EPA, and the FDA—uses an ultra-high-speed robot capable of testing thousands of different chemicals for potential toxicity every day.

Christopher Austin, M.D., director of NIH’s Chemical Genomics Center, says that thanks to new technologies like this, “the same number of chemicals that have been tested over the last 20 to 30 years [are] being tested now in a single day.” This information can be used to help regulate chemicals much more quickly than animal tests.

S. 697, which is already sponsored by 39 senators, includes principles to increase the use of information from methods like these and places restrictions—stronger than current law—on animal testing. The bill also requires the EPA to continue funding the development and use of nonanimal methods.

It’s no wonder S. 697 has a diverse and growing base of support from both sides of the aisle and from many environmental and public health groups. Alarmingly, a few groups are urging senators to vote against the bill, instead supporting less robust legislation. Their efforts will delay the protection of public health by maintaining reliance on animal tests.

As Congress returns from recess, we need to send a clear message that passage of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act is our best chance to overcome the failings of the current Toxic Substances Control Act and give the EPA the power to protect the public’s health from dangerous chemicals.

Sullivan is director of regulatory testing issues for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a nonprofit with 12,000 doctor members.