ALDF Brings Toxicity Testing in the 21st Century to the University of Chicago Law School

Posted by Joyce Tischler, ALDF's Founder and General Counsel on November 9, 2009

“Toxicity testing” – two words that have always sent chills down my spine. Toxicity testing involves some of the most painful testing done on animals. Yet, until recently, scientists staunchly defended the use of live animals as the “gold standard” in testing chemicals and other products. Then, in 2007, it snowed in June: the prestigious National Research Council (NRC) released a report in which a distinguished panel of scientists and academicians recommended that science and industry move away from the use of live animals to test the toxicity of chemicals, pesticides and other products that come onto the market, and that we begin to develop new tests that don’t rely on the use of animals. Very, very exciting! However, it is just a report and it will remain only that, unless and until it is implemented.

I’m just back from the latest and, arguably, the most exciting in our series of symposia on the path to implementing the National Research Council’s 2007 Report on Toxicity Testing in the 21st Century. This symposium explored, from the perspective of business leaders in the U.S., the costs, benefits, challenges and opportunities generated by the vision contained in the NRC’s Report and featured speakers with considerable expertise in toxicology, costs of toxicity testing, products liability exposure and the potential for the development of cost effective in vitro (non-animal) models.

The panelists included representatives from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, PepsiCo, 3M, CeeTox (a company that specializes in developing non-animal tests), the Council of Canadian Academies, the Research Institute for Fragrance Materials and U.C. Davis Veterinary School.

As I’ve described in earlier blog posts, we now have the extraordinary opportunity to usher in a sea change in the methods used by scientists testing the toxicity of products that enter the market. If we succeed, huge numbers of animals will be spared the intense suffering of toxicity tests. But, as we all know, change in any realm is difficult. It requires enough momentum to overcome the inertia of the status quo. And, that is what ALDF and its partners, the Environmental Law Institute, the Center for Animal Law Studies at Lewis & Clark Law School and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing, hope to accomplish with these symposia. We are working to recruit stakeholders who will apply the pressure needed to implement this change.

As Dr. Paul Locke of Johns Hopkins stated in his summary of the day’s presentations, we need to “encourage aggressive incrementalism, develop opportunistic strategies and leverage stakeholder pressure, in order to raise the floor and raise the ceiling.”

Our next symposium will be in Washington, D.C. in June of 2010. Stay tuned for details…