S.584/H. 966: An Act concerning the use of animals in product testing
MSPCA Position: Support
Sponsors: Senator Mark Montigny and Representative Jack Patrick Lewis
Status: Referred to the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture. Hearing held November 17, 2021.
Every year, tens of thousands of animals suffer and die in product testing in the U.S. In common toxicity testing, harsh chemicals are applied to an animal’s skin, forced down their throat or into their lungs, and dripped into their eyes—and pain relief is frequently withheld. These bills would require manufacturers and their contract testing facilities to use test methods that replace animal testing for products and ingredients when they are available and provide information of equivalent or better scientific quality and relevance for the intended purpose. The legislation applies to products such as cosmetics, household cleaners, and industrial chemicals, like those in paint; it does not apply to testing done for medical research, including testing of drugs or medical devices.
21st century science is rapidly moving away from outdated animal tests as many faster, less expensive, and more human-relevant alternative methods have become available, including artificial human tissue, organs-on-chips, and sophisticated computer programs. This shift toward non-animal methods builds on recommendations of the U.S. National Research Council’s 2007 report, Toxicity Testing in the 21st Century, which lays the groundwork for a “paradigm shift” in safety testing. It also conforms to the bipartisan-supported 2016 Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety of the 21st Century Act, which requires the EPA to minimize animal testing.
In an exciting step forward, in September of 2019 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it would reduce studies and funding on mammals by 30 percent by 2025, and stop conducting or funding studies on mammals entirely by 2035. Additionally, in February 2020, the EPA issued final guidance that reduces unnecessary testing on birds in the pesticide registration review process, which is expected to save 720 test animals annually. And in July 2020, EPA released guidance that reduces unnecessary testing on fish in the pesticide registration process, expected to save 240 test animals annually.
Non-animal test methods save time and money. Non-animal alternatives provide more efficient as well as more effective chemical safety assessment. Human cell-based tests and advanced computer models, for example, deliver human-relevant results in hours or days, unlike some animal tests that can take months or years.
Animal tests do not ensure human safety. No longer considered the gold standard of product testing, animal models carry serious scientific limitations. Different species can respond differently when exposed to the same chemicals, and even different sexes or sub-species can respond differently. Consequently, results from animal tests may not be relevant to humans, thereby under- or over-estimating health hazards. Alternative methods based on human biology are much more likely to provide results predictive of human responses.
Animals suffer in product tests. Every year, tens of thousands of animals suffer and die in product testing in the U.S. Thousands may be used for a single test, and they often suffer for months or years before being euthanized. The situation is all the more urgent given that mice, rats, and birds who have been purpose-bred for research make up roughly 95% of animals used in research and testing, and yet they are excluded from the protection of the Animal Welfare Act.
Massachusetts is a scientific and technological leader in non-animal alternatives. Massachusetts consistently ranks as a top research dollars recipient of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which, in its 2016-2020 strategic plan, stresses the importance of replacing animal testing models with scientifically superior alternative methods. The NIH in fact states in 2021 report that, “High rates of failure in the development of novel therapeutics whose progression to human clinical trials was supported by animal studies has prompted concern that animal models of the human condition are more imperfect than presumed.” As a top grant recipient, the Commonwealth has a vested interest in aligning its scientific goals and practices with those of the NIH. California, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Virginia have already passed laws similar to this legislation. It is time for Massachusetts to pass this legislation and join in leading the adoption of 21st century non-animal methods.