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10 March 1999 Issue

Product Testing

The next time you reach for your shampoo, remember this - it may have been
cruelly tested on innocent animals. Prominent personal care and household
product manufacturers such as Procter & Gamble and Gillette, among many
others, have been pouring shampoos, toilet cleaners, cosmetics, and virtually
every other personal care and household substance into the eyes, into the mouths,
and onto the raw, scraped skins of millions of rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, mice,
cats, dogs, other animals for years.

No law requires that cosmetics and household products be tested on animals.
Hundreds of companies produce cosmetics, personal care and household products
that are not tested on animals. Under pressure from caring consumers, many
major corporations, such as Revlon, Inc. and Amway Corporation, have modernized
their operations and stopped animal tests.

Other major producers, however, have made no real effort to move away from
animal testing. Some have even put up smoke screens to woo the public into
thinking they care about animals, when in fact their compassionate claims appear
to be more public relations than anything else. Procter & Gamble Corporation,
though claiming to be an industry leader in advancing alternatives to animal tests,
not only continues to unnecessarily use animal testing in product tests, but has
considered forming a coalition with a $17.5 million budget to defend animal testing
to the public and to legislators. An internal memorandum from Procter & Gamble,
made public by the Doris Day Animal League, revealed that the three-year plan
included an educational brochure and film, a National Speaker's Bureau, a
legislative defense package, a plan for coalition building with like-minded groups,
media advertising, and teaching materials supporting the continuance of animal
tests designed for students from kindergarten through high school. The $17.5
million budgeted to defend animal testing would have gone a long way if applied
instead to switching over to nonanimal methods of testing.

What types of animal tests do cosmetic and household product companies
perform? Two of the most popular are the Draize Eye Irritancy Test and the LD50
(Lethal Dose) Test.

Draize Test

The Draize test, named after its inventor, involves introducing substances into the
eyes of an animal to observe the degree of irritation caused by substance. White
albino rabbits are the animal of choice because their eyes are very sensitive and
because the structure of their tear ducts prevents tears from washing away the
foreign substance.

Placed into stocks so that only their heads stick out (like the old punishment
device of the Pilgrims), rabbits have anything from shampoo to oven cleaner to
lipstick to lawn care products placed into their eyes with no pain relief. Some
rabbits have reportedly broken their necks while struggling to free themselves from
the painful procedure. The degree of irritation is then recorded over a period of time
and the rabbit is eventually killed.

The Draize test is inhumane, painful, cumbersome, and expensive. Is it at least
scientific? Not according to a study conducted at Carnegie-Mellon University,
which revealed broad discrepancies in the lab reports for the same substance.
Because the Draize test relies on the subjective judgement of the observer, findings
for the same substance vary widely from one laboratory to the next, resulting in
contradictory evaluations of the same substance. In addition to questions about
the scientific validity of the test itself, there is also a question about the difference
between a rabbit's eye and a human's eye. In a 1974 Ohio court case, a judge
ruled that just because a shampoo irritated a rabbit's eye didn't mean that the
information was meaningful in regard to a human eye. Says Stephen Kaufman,
M.D.: "As an ophthalmologist in the New York University I am surprised that the
Draize eye irritation test is done at all....I know of no case in which an ophthal-
mologist found Draize data useful."

LD50 Test

Just as inhumane and pointless as the Draize test is the Lethal Dose 50 (LD50)
test, which gets its name from its purpose of discovering how much of a substance
it takes to kill 50% of the test group. As many as 200 animals may be force-fed a
toxic substance for a single test, which may last from two weeks to several months,
depending on the material being tested. This poisoning causes a great deal of
suffering; symptoms may include pain, convulsions, weakness and vomiting.

Other tests are the Acute Dermal Toxicity Test and the Acute Inhalation Test. The
Acute Dermal Toxicity Test involves scraping the skin until raw, smearing a
substance on the raw skin, covering the "treated" area with a bandage to protect
the experiment, and then removing the bandage a few hours later to observe the
degree of irritancy. The Acute Inhalation Test consists of repeatedly exposing test
animals to spray products.

Is the LD50 test scientifically valid? Many medical doctors don't think so. As with
the Draize test, they point to the difficulty in extrapolating data from animals to
humans and to the scientific invalidity of the experiments themselves. Lynda
Dickinson, author of the book 'Victims of Vanity,' contends that some deaths are
caused not by the poisonous nature of the tested substance, but from the sheer
volumes of the doses administered, which result in blocked internal organs and
subsequent death. Says one medical doctor, Donald Doll:

"As a practicing physician who is board certified in internal medicine and oncology,
I can find NO evidence that the Draize test, LD50 test, or any other tests using
animals to support the "safety" of chemicals and cosmetics have any relevance to
the human species. Such tests are outdated, insensitive, cruel, and provide no
useful data for humans. I strongly support legislation that prohibits the use of such
animal tests by industry...."

Humane alternatives to the animal tests for both eye and skin irritancy are already
in use by many companies. However, the cosmetics industry, which has extensive
resources to fund any needed research into alternatives, has invested only a token
amount toward nonanimal testing. Proposals for nonanimal methods are going
unfunded as a result of this lack of interest by the industry. Additionally, money is
being spent on research methods that simply reduce, rather than eliminate, the
use of animals.

Why do companies such as Procter & Gamble continue with outmoded, expensive
animal tests? It's anyone's guess. It may be that companies are waiting for the
federal government to officially endorse an alternative to animal tests, so that
companies can use this endorsement as a defense in case of consumer lawsuits
for product-related injury or harm. The most influential factor may simply be a
conservatism that resists change. Whatever the reason, exposing animals to
suffering and death to test yet another new deodorant or hairspray is unjustifiable
on any count.

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