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EU Chem Be Serious - EU Chemical Testing Outrage

Image from StopEUChemicalTests.comWhilst the European Union (EU) appears to be heading towards an ethically sound decision on animal-tested cosmetics, it has made plans for a massive chemical testing programme that would mean pain and death for an estimated 10 million animals.

The European Commission wants up to 70,000 chemicals to be tested, making it the largest toxicity testing programme of its kind in European history.

These include substances found in fuel, cleaning agents, paints, detergents, plastics, food preservatives and cars and have all been in common usage for years. The Commission is drawing up plans to test chemicals made before 1981, when there was no obligation for manufacturers to test chemicals in order to classify and label them. It is argued that little is known about the "fate and effects of [these] chemicals in the environment..." A White Paper is to be published by December 2001, which will then be debated in the European Parliament.

A report from the UK Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) shows that British officials are supporting their Brussels counterparts on this matter. It expresses concern that relatively few chemicals on the market and in the food chain have been subjected to current EU testing regulations, which were introduced in 1993. The DETR and the UK Government might well be expected to be in favour of this programme - approximately 20% of this contract-testing business is apparently destined for the UK vivisection industry. This would mean extra business for UK firms - an extra 200,000 animals being vivisected and killed in the UK every year over a ten year period (an increase of 12.5%). Notorious contract-testing company Huntingdon Life Sciences would be an obvious candidate to profit from the extra business this plan would bring to the UK.

This would lead to animal suffering and death on a huge scale. In a twenty year rolling programme there would be 350-500,000 toxicity tests carried out on animals every year. Animals used in such tests are likely to include dogs, cats, rabbits, rats, mice, guinea-pigs, non-human primates, birds and fish. BUAV believe that indications given to them are that the experiments will be tests to determine long term poisoning effects. These are to likely include tests for birth defects where chemicals are forced into pregnant animals to study the effects on the foetus or offspring, and even the LD50 test. The latter is a horrific test, whose purpose is to discover the level of poisoning a population of animals can withstand until half of them die. The BUAV pointed out that:

"This vile test can cause animals to suffer convulsions, severe abdominal pain, seizures, tremors and diarrhoea; they may bleed from the eyes, mouth or genitals, vomit uncontrollably, become paralysed, lose kidney function and fall into comas."

At the end of the test any remaining animals are killed.

Not only are these tests cruel, they are also poor at showing how a chemical will effect humans. Differences in anatomy, physiology, metabolism, and biochemistry make it impossible to accurately extrapolate results from animals to humans. These chemicals have been used for decades, so surely the human experience and epidemiological studies would reveal which chemicals are toxic. Furthermore, there are already in existence alternative routes to testing the safety and impact on the environment of chemicals.

The cost of the exercise is also large - estimated at between £100,000 and £500,000 for basic testing for a single chemical. Combined with the time-scale (10 years), amount of chemicals to be tested (70,000) and animals to be used (10 million), this has led the industry itself to view the proposals with alarm. The European Chemical Industry Council (CEFIC) says the plans are "unworkable."

Instead of re-testing thousands of chemicals that have been in use for over twenty years, the European Commission should be working to prohibit chemicals that are already known to be toxic. Incredibly, despite the Commission and UK bureaucrats and politicians ostensibly being highly concerned about the effects of these untested chemicals on humans and the environment, none of the products would be removed during the entire ten years it would take to complete the plan. This casts into serious doubt the supposed "necessity" of this programme.

Furthermore, if the huge effort and cost of this animal-based chemical testing programme were concentrated on developing more validated non-animal toxicity tests, both human and animal health would be a lot more assured.

Action

  • Write to Professor Romano Prodi, President of the European Commission at 200 rue de la Loi, B-1049 Bruxelles, Belgium and your MEP urging them to reject this widespread, regressive, cruel and unsafe testing programme. Tell them to visit the BUAV/PETA website at www.StopEUchemicalTests.com for more information.
  • You can find out your MEP at www.europarl.eu.int or call 020 72274300.
  • The BUAV and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals are leading the European lobbying on this matter. They have set up a dedicated website at www.StopEUchemicalTests.com.
  • For more information contact: BUAV, 16a Crane Grove, London N7 8LB; Tel: 0207 700 4888; email: info@buav.org
    or PETA, PO Box 3169, London SW18 4WJ; Tel: 020 8870 3966; email: info@petaeurope.org.uk

[The Observer, 23rd July 2000, by Sarah Ryle; BUAV Campaign Report, Winter 2000, p. 3-4]

Uncaged Campaigns 08.05.01

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Uncaged 1993-2012: This is the archived website of Uncaged. All information correct at the time of archiving - November 2012.