Lawmaker Doubts Prospects For Toxicity Test Mandates, Funding This Year
Rep. James Moran (D-VA), a key EPA appropriator and long-time supporter of limited animal testing, is pushing to raise awareness of alternatives to animal testing to determine chemicals' toxicity in preparation for future legislative mandates to require their use, though he recognizes that legislation or new funding are unlikely in the current Congress.
Attempting to push legislation through Congress would be "such an uphill climb," and funding increases are unlikely since "everything is being cut," Moran told an April 17 briefing on U.S. and European animal welfare issues in Washington, DC.
But the 11-term lawmaker, who also co-chairs the House Animal Protection Caucus, said that he plans to continue efforts to inform the public about alternative testing methods as part of an effort to make the case to require alternative testing. "We must also be prepared to work with corporations to enact regulations that encourage the use of non-animal alternatives," Moran said. "Having the technical capacity to conduct the tests is useless unless there are requirements that they actually be used."
"You can't give up," Moran added later in an interview with Inside EPA. "You have to prepare yourself for when the opportunity does come up."
Moran has long supported efforts by EPA and other agencies to move away from animal testing and engage in wide-spread use of high-throughput and computational toxicology methods. He has also supported legislation that would create a new federal research program at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences on the effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals, data that EPA and other agencies could then use to regulate substances found to be of concern. That legislation, which was similar to prior efforts, was refereed to the House Subcommittee on Health shortly after being introduced, but has yet to come up for a vote (Risk Policy Report, July 12).
Such efforts come as government science agencies, including EPA, are developing new assays and techniques for screening through the Tox21 program, some of which officials have said could be used preliminary testing for certain initiatives -- including the endocrine disruptor screening program (EDSP) -- in the very near future.
The new methods have won the backing of industry and animal rights activists for reducing the number of animals and costs associated with producing health and safety testing. High-throughput screening will also enable EPA to screen mixtures and some of the 55,000 chemicals on the market that are untested due to provisions in the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) that exempt them from requirements because they were already in use, Moran said. "While still in use today, we simply do not know the safety of these chemicals, particularly with regards to their impact on the human endocrine system, because we never tested them," he added. "And to do so using animals would, among other things, be prohibitively expensive. In order to have a better understanding of the impacts of these chemicals, some of the effects of which may accumulate over a lifetime, we must have better tests."
The U.S. has fallen behind Europe in it's efforts to stem the use of animal testing. The European Union in 1986 called for prohibiting the use of animal testing whenever possible, Thomas Hartung, director of the Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health told the briefing. Since then, the EU has spent more than $300 million to advance the new testing methods, and have instituted a ban on animal testing of cosmetics.
By contrast, Tox21, which stemmed from a report by the National Academy of Sciences, was not adopted to anchor American alternative testing methods until 2007, and very little regulatory action has been taken to back the program hindering its advancement.
"I don't want to say that legislation is the only way of protect animals," Hartung said. "But . . . that legislation lays the ground and sets the playing ground for our work" on new screening methods. While Moran said in the interview that he would continue to push for alternatives to animal testing, "I just don't see [legislation] being considered by" this congress.
Jenny Hopkinson Associate
Editor Inside EPA's Risk Policy Report