Jewish World Review
http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- (UPI) A physicians' watchdog group has announced it plans to file a lawsuit against the federal government Thursday over a chemical testing program involving animal experiments.
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine said it will file its lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency in New York. Plaintiffs joining the lawsuit include People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the American Anti-Vivisection Society, the Alternatives Research and Development Foundation and three private citizens who say they have been harmed by the chemicals tested in this EPA program.
The program in question is called the High Production Volume Chemical Testing Program, which seeks to assess the toxicity levels of a variety of compounds used in everyday life. The PCRM says the EPA is conducting unnecessary tests on animals to assess information about chemical toxicity that is already available.
Duplicative animal tests are not predictive of human harm and do not produce reliable scientific data, PCRM states, and the EPA has not been forced to examine alternative tests, such as in vitro genetic toxicity testing, which could prove to be more sensitive than animal tests.
Animal rights activists have been critical of the program since it began the testing in 1999. They say the EPA, which partnered with the Chemical Manufacturers Association and the Environmental Defense Fund in this project, developed the program with little public input.
Mindy Kursban, chief counsel for the PCRM, said the EPA is in violation of the Toxic Substances Control Act and the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which requires government programs to make itself available to public scrutiny and accountability procedures.
"I think the law is very clear that EPA has to adhere to these pre-established requirements and they failed to do so," Kursban told United Press International. "We would like the program to stop."
Kursban added, "What EPA should be doing is regulating these chemicals to reduce or eliminate them from our environment instead of regenerating data on whether they're toxic."
The EPA did not return requests for comment.
Karen Florini, senior attorney for the Environmental Defense Fund in Washington, said in some cases, animal testing is needed.
"We think that animal testing is unfortunately still necessary in order to generate scientific data to determine which compounds are toxic and in what ways," Florini told UPI. It is better to have a few animal test subjects to determine toxicity than to have everyone in the environment be exposed to a substance that could be harmful, she said.
Florini said she did not know the details of the lawsuit.
"This is a very puzzling contention on their part because program is very explicitly set up," she said.
Florini denied the tests are useless or duplicative.
"Only when there are gaps in the basic screening data are any additional studies done."
The three individual plaintiffs joining the PCRM lawsuit are John Gentry and Scott Mishler, who both were exposed to toxic levels of chemicals tested in the HPV program while on the job. Mishler, a former electrician, was exposed to hydraulic fluid containing a chemical called trixylenyl phosphate slated for HPV retesting, PCRM contends. Trixylenyl phosphate can be damaging to the central nervous system.
The third citizen is Rosa Naparstek, an artist, who suffers headaches, muscle and joint pain and dizziness from occupational and everyday exposure to chemicals found in paint and other household items, according to PCRM.
Jacquie Calnan, president of Americans for Medical Progress in Alexandria, Va., a group supported by the pharmaceutical industry, said animal testing has brought numerous scientific benefits to humanity, including a range of drugs to help treat a long list of illnesses that were once untreatable.
Animal testing "is just one tool that is used," Calnan said. "I think the PCRM has a very clear agenda on this matter." For them, she said, "it's not about medical progress, it's about medical rights."
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