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16 June 1999 Issue
Lethal Dose Tests: Unlimited Lunacy

The lethal dose (or LD) test measures the amount of a toxic substance that will,
in a single dose, kill a certain percentage of animals in a test group. "To avoid
interference with results," no painkillers are administered. Each year, about
five million dogs, rabbits, rats, monkeys, and other animals die in lethal dose
tests performed in the United States.(1)

Cosmetics and household product tests on animals are not required by law.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires only that each ingredient
in a cosmetic product be "adequately substantiated for safety" prior to
marketing, or the product must carry a warning on the label that its safety has
not been determined. The FDA does not have the authority to require any
particular product test, so contrary to what companies that use lethal dose tests
say, the FDA does not require the test.

How the Test is Given
During a lethal dose test, the experimental substance is forced into the animals'
throats or is pumped into their stomachs by a tube, sometimes causing death
by stomach rupture or from the sheer bulk of the chemical dosage. Sub-
stances also are injected under the skin, into a vein, or into the peritoneal lining
of the abdomen; they are also often applied to the eyes, rectum, or vagina, or
forcibly inhaled through a gas mask.

Not an Accurate Test
The lethal dose test does not accurately measure human health hazards and is
very crude and imprecise. Lethal dose test results can be affected by the age
and sex of the animals tested, their housing and nutritional conditions, tempera-
ture, time of day and year, and the exact method used to administer the sub-
stance.(2) Different species react differently to substances, and reactions
between individuals of the same species can also vary greatly. For example,
nicotine is lethal to humans at 0.9mg/kg, but lethal dose values of nicotine in
dogs are a staggering 9.2mg/kg; in pigeons, 75mg/kg; and in rats, 53mg/kg.

Alternatives Exist
In 1981, eminent scientists and toxicology experts met in Uppsala, Sweden,
to discuss this "near useless" test. Since then, the lethal dose test has come
under increasing fire for its cruel effects and inaccuracy. Computer modeling
and cell and tissue culture techniques are among the available non-animal
methods, as is the Ames test, which uses salmonella bacteria to determine
toxicity.

What Can Be Done
According to Robert Osterberg of the FDA, "Bureaucrats need an atom bomb
to move them." In response to public pressure, some laboratories have begun
reducing the number of animals used in revised lethal dose or "limit" tests, but
the tests remain cruel and inaccurate. As with the notorious eye irritancy tests,
it will take pressure from concerned consumers and animal advocates to move
cosmetics companies into the world of progressive science. The lethal dose
test will meet its overdue demise when enough consumers, legislators, and
ethical scientists demand an end to its use.

References
1."Classical LD50 Acute Toxicity Test," Humane Society of the United States,
1984. 2.Pratt, Dallas, M.D., Alternatives to Pain In Experiments On Animals,
1980, p. 206.

5/15/97
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