Obama Signs Law To Minimize Animal Testing — Chemical Toxicity To Be Tested By Alternate Methods, Mandates New Law

President Barack Obama signed a new chemical safety law that aims to reduce and eventually phase out the testing of chemicals on animals.

Obama on Wednesday signed into law a bill that aims to overhaul the decades-old system which was used to test chemical substances for their toxicity. The Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act (LCSA) includes a groundbreaking condemnation of animal testing and mandates agencies to seek out and follow alternative testing methods that do not require animals.

The new act updates the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which hasn’t been revised for more than 20 years. Moreover, the new law will also bring radical changes to the way chemical substances are regulated in the U.S. Such a groundbreaking change has never happened in the last 40 years.

The Toxic Substances Control Act was signed in 1976, and it essentially mandates testing of chemical substances for their toxicity. Moreover, it allows testing the chemicals on animals and rate their toxicity based on the reactions.

How will the reform work? The LCSA essentially includes a provision discouraging the use of chemical testing on vertebrate animals and requiring the Environmental Protection Agency to create and promote a database of alternative testing methods, reported the Huffington Post. The law aims to drastically reduce and eventually phase out animal-based tests with human-relevant methods to assess the toxicity of chemicals.

Unfortunately, the new law only deals with regulations governed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and not than the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), reported Regulatory Affairs Professionals Society. However, similar to the user fee agreements that the FDA levies, the TSCA reform allows EPA to collect up to $25 million in fees each year.

Funds accumulated through the fee agreements will help pay for the costs of chemical regulation. These funds will also be used to monitor the implementation of the law and ensure congressional appropriations wherever necessary. Additionally, the funds should also help in devising newer testing methodologies that keep animals out of the loop, and speed-up safety assessments.

The reform has given the EPA two years to create and implement a plan promoting the development of alternative testing methods. In other words, the EPA will now have to start cataloging toxicity testing methods that do not depend on animals as their “guinea pigs,” shared Crystal Schaeffer, the outreach director for the American Anti-Vivisection Society.

“TSCA reform will not only spare hundreds of thousands of animals from enormous suffering, but will also encourage the continued modernization of chemical testing and the development of alternatives.”

A few of the most common testing methods that do not involve animals are the in vitro method as well as the computer model simulation. Essentially, the in vitro testing methods tests isolated human cells against chemicals. The computer modeling method tests the chemicals’ effects in a digital environment using an ever-growing database to identify and catalogue chemicals according to their toxicity.

The new law signed by Obama was designed by 89-year-old New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg who spearheaded the efforts to overhaul the “deeply-flawed” 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act. Unfortunately he passed away in 2013, before he could see his work being signed into a law. Lautenberg’s work was carried forward by vegan senator Cory Booker who was elected to take his place on the Senate that year. She continued with Lautenberg’s work, and included a number of other senators to bring the act before President Obama to be signed into law, reported VegNews.

Millions of animals are killed in U.S. lab tests and experiments each year. The most common species to suffer are mice, rats, birds, rabbits, and fish. While the law doesn’t outlaw animal testing completely, animal welfare groups say it sets an important precedent that is a reflection of both changing public attitudes and a slow, ongoing movement away from animal testing by some industries and research agencies, reported the Washington Post.

[Photo by Yasuyoshi Chiba/Getty Images]