Animal Testing of Cosmetics Banned in EU – Where is US?

by Mary Haight on February 7, 2013

animal testing of cosmeticsAnimal testing of cosmetics is a horrific practice, one that the European Coalition to End Animal Experiments has been fighting to ban for 23 years. That there was a change of hands in the office of the European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy is key to this hard-won success.

The former Commissioner was considering recommendations to weaken or stall the phased-in ban that began in March 2009, allowing corporations to continue using animal testing of cosmetics until they found a replacement.

The new Commissioner, Tonio Borg, stated the ban will take place as scheduled March 11, 2013. As of that date, cosmetic products and their ingredients can no longer be tested on animals for any reason, and no products that have tested on animals can be sold in the EU market. That begs the question – what will the US do?

We still allow animal testing of cosmetics and ingredients, and the Humane Society of the United States and stakeholders have for years been campaigning against it. In case you forgot, this is why (highly sensitive people may want to read one point and move on):

“Although they are not required by law, several tests are commonly performed by exposing mice, rats, rabbits, guinea pigs and other animals to cosmetics ingredients. This can include:

  • skin and eye irritation tests where chemicals are rubbed onto the shaved skin or dripped into the eyes of restrained rabbits without any pain relief
  • repeated force-feeding studies lasting weeks or months to look for signs of general illness or specific health hazards such as cancer or birth defects
  • widely condemned “lethal dose” tests, in which animals are forced to swallow large amounts of a test chemical to determine the dose that causes death.

“At the end of a test the animals are killed, normally by asphyxiation, neck-breaking or decapitation. Pain relief is not provided. In the United States, a large percentage of the animals used in such testing (such as laboratory-bred rats and mice) are not counted in official statistics and receive no protection under the Animal Welfare Act.”

While the European Coalition to End Animal Experiments is moving on to their next target, what is being done in the US? Check this Q&A for information covering many basics on this topic, and the pledge page for cruelty free products and links to information and news. Of course, this is hardly enough, not really the kind of action that changes things quickly, is it?

Animal Testing – Where is the US?

The National Academy of Sciences, at the request of the EPA, came up with a better idea in 2007: “Toxicity Testing in the 21st Century. A Vision and A Strategy” stated that chemicals should be tested on human cells, not animals, and new advances in toxicology and molecular biology among many others, would be used to better evaluate risk. Testing would be faster, cheaper and targeted results would produce clear outcomes for humans.

Evaluating food additives, industrial, agricultural and other chemicals and medicines for potential cancer causation, birth defects and other ills provide the foundation for public health and regulatory decisions. Cross-disciplinary research is the way forward, all housed under one roof to facilitate easy exchange of ideas and a faster road to solutions.

As the system currently operates, here’s how testing becomes a multi-year, sometimes decades long effort, revealing the inefficiencies and unacceptable risks when many compounds the public will be exposed to are not tested at all (from Toxicity Testing report):

“Current System Has Resulted in Expensive Patchwork Approach
Currently, companies seeking to register pesticides or federal agencies evaluating industrial or consumer chemicals carry out a series of tests by exposing animals to chemicals to screen for cancer, birth defects, and other adverse health effects. In the past, agencies have typically responded to scientific advances mostly by altering animal-based toxicity tests or adding more animal tests—such as studying offspring of exposed mothers—to existing toxicity-testing regimens. That approach has led to a testing system that is lengthy and costly and that uses many animals. In combination with the various legal authorities under which EPA operates, this system has resulted in many toxicants not being tested at all, despite potential human exposure to them—even as other contaminants receive significant research attention and decades of scrutiny.” (page 2 of 4)
As inefficient and expensive in both animal lives and currency the current approach is, scientists say it will take decades to get this collaborative team assembled and ready to produce results. HSUS had the same reaction you likely just had, as did others. Enter the Human Toxicology Project Consortium.
The Consortium includes several industry leaders, a research institute, and HSUS affiliates Humane Society Legislative Fund and Humane Society International. The Humane Society of the United States serves as its coordinator. The goal here is to accelerate this process to transition from animal testing to 21st century methods suggested in the National Academy of Sciences report.
It takes money to take action and action is what’s needed. HSUS is calling on governments, stakeholders, private and public funding to support this effort for the next 10 years with a price tag of $100 million dollars per year.
(Photo source: © Brian Gunn /IAAPEA)

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