EPA takes major step toward ending animal testing

EPA takes major step toward ending animal testing
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The Trump administration on Tuesday said it will adopt a plan to eliminate all animal testing requirements at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by 2035.

The agency announced it will devote $4.25 million for five universities to research and develop alternative methods for evaluating chemical safety that don't include animal testing. EPA will begin winding down its requests for and funding of animal testing, aiming to cut use by 30 percent by 2025 and completely eliminate mammal testing 10 years later.

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EPA Administrator Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerHouse committee hits EPA with subpoenas Scientists join Democrats in panning EPA's 'secret science' rule Overnight Energy: BLM staff face choice of relocation or resignation as agency moves | Trump says he's 'very much into climate' | EPA rule would expand limits on scientific studies MORE on Tuesday directed the agency to implement new methods to test the effects of chemicals and other substances regulated by the department in order to “significantly reduce” the use of testing on animals. Cell testing and computer modeling are the main alternatives to animal testing.

“This is an effort that the agency will undertake over the next 16 years to improve the science we use for scientific decision and eliminate the need for animal tests. This is a long-standing personal belief on my behalf,” Wheeler said at a press conference Tuesday.

“There are a lot of alternatives between computer modeling and in vitro testing. There are better alternatives for testing the chemical impacts on people than animal testing,” he added.

According to official memorandum signed by Wheeler on Tuesday, the effort would potentially allow for the evaluation of “more chemicals across a broader range of potential biological effects, but in a shorter time frame with fewer resources.”

The onus of complying with the directive will largely fall to chemical and pesticide manufacturers, who must register their products through EPA and provide detailed test results of the substances' affects on humans. 

The agency argues the move away from animal testing could ultimately allow for “equal or greater biological predictivity than current animal models.”

“Scientific advancements exist today that allow us to better predict potential hazards for risk assessment purposes without the use of traditional methods that rely on animal testing,” Wheeler wrote in the memo.

The move was hailed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the Humane Society, groups that partnered with EPA on the development of the plan. Each group has a long history of advocating against testing products and chemicals on animals.

“We’re excited to see the EPA ending its reliance on animal testing. Not only because it will reduce the suffering of animals, but it will better protect health and the environment,” said Amy Clippinger, director of PETA's Regulatory Testing Department.

“This is the science that is being utilized right now and will be the science of the future that will truly protect public health and the environment," said Sara Amundson, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.

The Obama administration first took steps toward stopping animal testing at the agency in June 2016 under an amendment to the Toxic Substances Control Act that requires the EPA to reduce reliance on mammal testing.

Researchers, though, have criticized the decision. EPA's plans were first reported by The Intercept in July.

Scientists said eliminating mammal testing for chemicals could limit the amount of data available about their effects on humans. Cell testing and computer modeling, they say, often only paint a small picture of the harmful effects substances could have on the public.

Internal EPA emails obtained by the Intercept show that major chemical companies also supported the move away from animal testing. Wheeler is a former lobbyist for various chemical companies.

Wheeler denied any communications between himself and chemical industry lobbyists, saying his push to end animal testing was of personal interest.

"I have not been lobbied by a single chemical company on this plan. This is a long-standing issue to me. I have not talked to a single chemical company about this."

Wheeler cited the influence of his mother and two sisters, one who is a zoologist and the other a veterinarian, for his passion behind ending animal testing requirements at the agency.