EPA Drops Target Date but Expands Scope of Animal Testing Phase-Out

The Environmental Protection Agency has quietly abandoned a 2035 target date to end use of mammals in toxicity testing. This 2035 target date was originally announced in September 2019 (see AWI Quarterly, fall 2019) and reiterated in June 2020. However, the target date was missing in a December 2021 New Approach Methods Work Plan update that only recently came to light in news media. New approach methods include technologies that don’t require the use of animals, such as organoids (artificially grown masses of cells or tissues) and organs-on-chips (small polymer chips laced with human cells) to mimic the human body’s physiological responses to drugs, toxins, or other chemicals.

photo by kazakovmaksim
photo by kazakovmaksim

As quoted in a January 2024 Science article about the change, former EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler—who signed the 2019 memo—expressed his fear that, without the deadline, “the status quo will continue.” The EPA indicated in an internal agency email, however, that it remains committed to the development of non-animal models, and the agency has publicly asserted that removing the target date will shift focus from the deadline to specific objectives. 

In the updated work plan, the EPA also broadened its goal of reducing and eliminating testing on mammals to include all vertebrate animals—a welcome revision given the EPA’s extensive use of fish. The EPA currently relies on thousands of mice, rats, rabbits, and fish each year to assess the safety of pesticides and chemicals.

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