A Look at Animal Testing
Shampoo, lotion, toner, face cream and fluoride toothpaste – just a few of the many products that we use daily, and which may have been tested on animals. Thousands of new products flood the cosmetics aisle every year. For most of these products, animal testing was used at some point in its research and development. Though animal testing in research and drug development still remains common practice, even scientists now agree that alternatives to animal testing can and should be used by the personal care and cosmetics industry. Wondering what other ways are there to test products instead of animal testing? Alternative methods are actually cheaper, safer and provide faster results.
Alternatives to Animal Testing
Though the idea of animal testing may seem trivial, testing is not as simple as smearing cold cream or lip gloss on the face of a rabbit. Animals used in laboratory testing, often go through extremely painful experiments and millions die every year. Those that survive the experiments do not get set free, instead they are euthanized. In cosmetic animal testing; rabbits, guinea pigs, mice and rats are commonly used. Tests are done on finished products and individual ingredients to determine the products level of toxicity and ability to cause eye or skin irritations, allergies and other harmful effects.
One of the easiest ways that companies can avoid animal testing is to use products that have been extensively used in human history and have proven their safety over time. Companies can also rely on data from natural and synthetic ingredients that have been previously tested on animals. Computer modeling and databases can be used to determine biological properties of ingredients and make risk assessments.
Those that support animal testing say that is a necessary practice. They point out that companies that rely on animal testing do use humane methods to feed, house and care for the animals. Supporters also claim that alternatives to animal testing are not as far reaching, lacking the ability to determine how cosmetic products affect living tissue and organs.
To handle the need to test on live subjects, technologies have been developed that allow human cell cultures to be grown in a test tube and used for study. L’Oréal, Proctor & Gamble and other cosmetic companies are making use of artificial skin products, like EpiDerm to develop models of the human skin. These models can be used to test how products are absorbed into the skin and if they will cause irritation. Direct human testing through clinical trials where the product is released for use to a limited group of participants and skin patches are also effective alternatives to animal testing.
A World View of Animal Testing Alternatives
Most cosmetic manufacturers have responded to the controversy by stopping, or at least claiming they have stopped animal testing. Furthermore, the Food and Drug Administration does not require animal testing for general personal care, cosmetics or household cleaning products.
However, regulations and consumer protection laws do require testing on certain cosmetic products to ensure safety and nontoxicity with federal safety rules. Consider the popular cosmetic drug Botox. According to a 2008, Washington Post article titled "In U.S., Few Alternatives to Testing on Animals", the US manufacturer behind the drug, tests for the correct human dosage of each batch, by injecting it into lab mice. What constitutes a correct dose? – One that kills half the mice injected.
In the European Union, the practice of testing cosmetic ingredients on animals is being gradually phased out and a near complete ban will be in place within the next few years. The European Center for the Evaluation of Alternative Methods, (ECVAM) is responsible for researching alternatives to animal testing. Currently over 30 alternative tests have been developed. The concern over what other ways are there to test products instead of animal testing, have also prompted bans on cosmetic animal testing in the United Kingdom, Belgium and the Netherlands.
Even if a company does not conduct animal testing, they may still purchase ingredients tested on animals from another company or conduct animal experiments by outsourcing the task to a laboratory. Companies that do not test on animals will usually have this information included somewhere on the products label. The product may state "cruelty free" or "not tested on animals" To find out if products are really cruelty free, sites like CaringConsumer.com can be used.
The Lowdown on Animal Testing for Cosmetics: "https://www.nature.com/news/2009/090311/full/news.2009.147.html"
Animals in Product Testing: "https://www.navs.org/site/PageServer?pagename=ain_pt_testing_main"
In U.S., Few Alternatives to Testing on Animals: by Gilbert M. Gaul, "https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/04/11/AR2008041103733_pf.html" April 12, 2008"
(Photos courtesy Photos8.com)