The Environmental Protection Agency plans to significantly reduce its reliance on animal testing for studying the safety of chemicals, with a goal of eliminating all experiments on mammals by 2035.
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler outlined the plan in a memo on Tuesday that argued for alternative testing methods, including computer modeling and laboratory studies.
“Scientific advancements exist today that allow us to better predict potential hazards for risk assessment purposes without the use of traditional methods that rely on animal testing,” Wheeler said.
To help advance animal-free tests, the EPA said it is awarding $4.25 million to five universities to encourage research and development of alternative methods.
According to Wheeler’s memo, by 2025 the EPA will cut animal testing ― including reducing mammal study requests and funding ― by 30% and will completely eliminate it by 2035. Any mammal studies requested or funded by the EPA after 2035 will require the administrator’s approval on a case-by-case basis.
Animal advocacy group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals praised the EPA’s announcement, calling it “groundbreaking.”
The environmental advocacy group Natural Resources Defense Council was opposed, however, arguing that reducing or eliminating animal tests will mean the EPA is intentionally “blindfolding itself” to protecting human safety.
“Phasing out foundational scientific testing methods can make it much harder to identify toxic chemicals — and protect human health,” said Jennifer Sass, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Once again, the Trump administration appears to be working on behalf of the chemical industry and not the public.”
Sass’ claim about the EPA’s coziness with the chemical industry follows the release of memo that Wheeler, a former coal industry lobbyist, sent to his staff in June. The memo, obtained by the Intercept, showed the EPA had communicated with chemical companies about collaborating on eliminating chemical testing on animals, which is more time-consuming and expensive than alternative methods.
Wheeler told reporters that he had not been lobbied “by a single chemical company” on his decision, according to The Associated Press. He said he didn’t know if anyone else at the EPA had spoken with chemical companies.
Wheeler, who under President Donald Trump has worked to roll back Obama administration environmental regulations, said reducing tests on lab animals has been a longtime personal goal. He shared an op-ed he wrote in college in 1987 that advocated for reducing animal testing.
“I didn’t think we were that far away from banning animal testing then,” Wheeler said, according to NPR. “Part of why I’m doing this today is because it’s been 30 years and we haven’t made enough progress.”