PETA slams EDF testing deal with chemical makers

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 1999:

WASHINGTON D.C.––People for
the Ethical Treatment of Animals cofounder
Alex Pacheco threw a January haymaker at
the Environmental Defense Fund’s greatest
victory in 32 years of campaigning for more
stringent chemical safety standards.
EDF and the Chemical Manufacturers
Association on January 27 jointly
announced a protocol under which the chemical
industry will spend more than $1 billion to
safety-test 2,800 high production volume
chemicals, looking out for health effects
which were mostly not known when they
were first approved.
But as the announcement was pending,
Pacheco warned PETA donors that the
project would involve “millions of animals––
rabbits, guinea pigs, birds, rats, and fish––
over the next six years.”

Charged Pacheo, “The EDF claims
it needs these tests to better ensure the safety
and health of the public and the environment.
I agree that is very important.”
However, Pacheco added, “The
program tends to ignore human data, the
most predictive of any data, and several
state-of-the-art screening and testing procedures
that would spare these animals unspeakable
pain and suffering. In fact,” Pacheco
continued, “some chemicals already known
to be toxic to humans could be found ‘safe’
using these unreliable animal tests.”
Apparently basing his report on
information about the EDF/CMA agreement
that was released in bits beginning on April
21, 1998, when U.S. vice president Albert
Gore declared his support for retesting high
production volume chemicals, Pacheco
claimed the protocol would include both “the
gruesome lethal dose 50 test, which involves
forcing animals to eat or inhale toxic materials
until half of them die,” and tests in which
“animals will have corrosive materials rubbed
onto their shaved and abraded skin.”
Pacheco pledged that if necessary,
PETA would fight the testing “every step of
the way.”

Endocrine effects
At that, Pacheco somewhat understated
the scope of the testing to be done.
Beyond reviewing the 2,800 high production
volume chemicals, the CMA will be screening
about 15,000 chemical and pesticide
ingredients to see whether they affect human
endocrine systems. The phenomenon of
endocrine disruption is believed to be altering
the gender characteristics and fertility of some
wild reptiles and amphibians who are exposed
to chemical and pesticide residues––and
though suspected for longer, has only been
reliably documented during the past 10 years.
In addition, reported Claudia H.
Deutsch for The New York Times, the CMA
has budgeted $100 million for studying “the
mechanisms by which whole families of
chemicals act on the environment or human
Ironically, Deutsch pointed out,
“Many scientists think [this part of the
research] will provide the means to determine
when it does or does not make sense to
extrapolate from epidemiological studies and
animal tests to assess a chemical’s human
health risks.”
Responded EDF staff attorney
Karen Florini to two pages of questions from
ANIMAL PEOPLE, “Ths initiative does not
require the LD50. The LD50 is one of four
allowable protocols for assessing acute toxicity,
but it is the least favored one. It continues
to be allowable because otherwise, existing
LD50 data could not be taken into account.”
Developed in 1916, the LD50 was
virtually the only toxicity test in common use
when many of the 2,800 high production volume
chemicals first went on the market. It
remained the benchmark for toxicity testing
into the early 1980s.
By then the LD50 had long since
been surpassed by more accurate tests using
far fewer animals––or none––but it remained
popular with the manufacturers of many
chemical products, possibly because it tends
to miss longterm effects with a normal latency
interval in humans of much longer than the
typical lifespan of a laboratory animal.

Henry Spira
For instance, LD50 testing never
did detect most health effects associated with
inhalation and ingestion of asbestos. The
latency period for most asbestos-related cancers
is 20 to 40 years. And, though strongly
inferred by human health data and epidemiological
studies for more than 30 years, a
direct causal link between asbestos ingestion
and a range of slow-developing but lethal gastrointestinal
cancers has never been established:
lab animals die of old age long before
the human symptoms typically appear.
The LD50 eventually fell into disrepute
through the combination of energetic
campaigning against it on humane grounds by
the late Henry Spira, beginning circa 1974,
and frequent exposure of LD50 test results
which were either manipulated by the testers’
choice of animals to test on or were out-andout
Ironically, Spira died in September
1998 from a form of stomach cancer which
may have been associated with his prolonged
exposure to asbestos dust while working as a
shipboard electrician from the mid-1940s
until the mid-1960s.
Continued Florini, “Our program
includes several ways to minimize animal
use. First, where there are multiple manufacturers
of one compound, they are strongly
encouraged to join together into consortia so
that each chemical is only tested once. Where
scientifically appropriate data already exist,
they can be used rather than generating new
data. And chemicals can be grouped into categories,
with some but not all members tested,
in scientifically appropriate ways. Where
appropriate,” Florini added, “use of structure/activity
relationships [models of how
chemicals work] will be used to interpolate
data, rather than additional direct testing.
Finally,” Florini pledged, “EDF and several
leading universities have established a project
to promote use of alternate, more humane,
more efficient test methods. We expect to
make a public announcement of this project in
the near future.”
The announcement came on
February 24. According to an EDF release,
“EDF, Johns Hopkins University, the
University of Pittsburgh, and CarnagieMellon
University” have jointly launched
“TestSmart, a project designed to find more
efficient and humane methods of conducting
preliminary toxicity screening tests on chemicals.
The four institutions will explore new
testing methods that minimize the use of laboratory
animals and produce reliable results
faster and for less money than in the past.
The TestSmart project is funded by a
$320,000 grant from the Vira I. Heinz
The amount is chump change,
however, compared to the total estimated
cost of the testing mandated by the EDF/CMI
agreement––and to the $65 million spent by
Procter & Gamble since 1984 on developing
alternatives to animal testing, to which effort
PETA and In Defense of Animals have
responded with a now 15-year-old boycott of
P&G products.

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