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EU CHEMICAL TESTING - Letter to the editor
Posted 1 November 2001
October 27, 2001
Dear Letters Editor
The European Commission's plan to consume scores of millions of animals in poisoning tests ('50 million animals in mass test plan', October 27), represents a betrayal of the human population as well as a catastrophe for the proposed animal victims.
Toxicity tests on animals - whether they be dogs, fish or hamsters - produce data that cannot be reliably applied to people. The anti-breast cancer drug tamoxifen, for instance, is a potent promoter of liver cancer in rats - and yet, because it is expedient to ignore this fact, the drug has been approved by the regulators and has been administered to millions of women.
The proposed chemical tests would typically involve force-feeding extremely high doses of suspect substances to groups of animals for a period of weeks, killing the survivors and assessing the chemicals' safety by examining the animals' brains, livers and other tissues. Apart from the problems of species differences, this is not how people encounter chemicals. We suffer cumulative toxic insults from the interaction of a rapidly growing number of agricultural, industrial and household product chemicals with which our immediate and background environment are now awash. Equally, your article referred to the problems of validating non-animal alternative tests. But the validation process, at present, assumes that animal data is the gold standard and demands that alternative tests reproduce such data - a thoroughly dangerous nonsense.
There are indeed comparatively sound non-animal methods of testing the safety of chemicals. But no testing method will ever be failsafe. If we want to stop poisoning ourselves and the world we inhabit, we must kick the chemical habit.