FAQ: PRODUCT TESTING

How are animals used in product testing?

What do tests for eye and skin irritancy involve?

What is the LD-50 test?

Why do companies conduct animal testing?

Aren’t companies required by the federal government to test their products on animals?

Which animal species are most often used in product testing?

Is animal testing of cosmetics, personal care and household products necessary to protect consumers?

Does animal testing ensure that a product is safe to use?

Do vitamins have to be tested on animals?

Must contact lens products be tested on animals?

If we didn’t test products on animals, how could we be sure we’re protecting the health and safety of consumers?

Has animal testing of cosmetics, personal care and household products increased or decreased in recent years?

What are the non-animal alternatives to product testing?



How are animals used in product testing?

Most animal testing involves eye and skin irritancy tests, as well as the LD-50 test, which is used to measure the acute toxicity level of certain ingredients on live animals.
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What do tests for eye and skin irritancy involve?

The Draize test is the most well known eye and skin irritancy test. It attempts to measure the harmfulness of chemicals by observing the damage they cause to the eyes and skin of animals. In the Draize test for eye irritancy, solutions of products are applied directly into the eyes of conscious rabbits. During the test period, which usually lasts at least seven days, the rabbits may suffer extreme pain, and blindness often occurs. At the end of the test period, all the animals are killed in order to determine the internal effects of the toxic substances. The Draize test for skin irritancy consists of immobilizing an animal while test substances are applied to shaved and abraded skin. (Skin is abraded by firmly pressing adhesive tape onto the animal’s body and quickly stripping it off. The process is repeated until several layers of skin have been removed.) The Draize test was introduced about 50 years ago by Food and Drug Administration toxicologist John H. Draize. Since its inception, the test has been strongly criticized for its extreme cruelty and inability to provide reliable data that can be extrapolated to humans.
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What is the LD-50 test?

In the LD-50 test, a group of animals is forced to ingest, inhale or otherwise consume varying amounts of a substance. The test is complete when 50% of the test animals die. The remaining 50% are killed. During the test period, the animals typically suffer acute distress—pain, convulsions, discharge, diarrhea and bleeding from the eyes and mouth. Even when LD-50 tests are used to test fairly harmless substances, it is still standard procedure to find the concentration that will force half the animals to die. Huge quantities, which would never be ingested by humans accidentally, must be exposed to the animals. Supposedly, the LD-50 test yields information on the toxicity of a substance and the amount ingested that would cause harm to people. However, since results can vary widely between species, reliable predictions of human lethal dose are virtually impossible.
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Why do companies conduct animal testing?

Companies are not specifically required by law to test their products on animals, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) strongly urges manufacturers to conduct whatever toxicological tests are appropriate to substantiate the safety of their products. For these companies, animal testing is the simple and logical choice for collecting data that could limit the company’s liability to its customers in a lawsuit.
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Aren't companies required by the federal government to test their products on animals?

The federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act does not require manufacturers of cosmetics, personal care and other household products to test their products and ingredients on animals for safety. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) actually encourages the use of testing techniques that do not use whole living animals. Cosmetics and personal care products that are also intended to treat or prevent disease, or which affect the structure or function of the human body, are considered “drugs.” Some examples of these types of products are suntan preparations intended to protect against sunburn, anti-dandruff shampoos and topical acne medications. These products must comply with the drug testing requirements of the FDA, and animals are always used as test models.
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Which animal species are most often used in product testing?

Rabbits, guinea pigs, mice and rats are the favored animals for product testing, primarily because they are inexpensive and easy to handle. Rabbits are used extensively in eye irritancy tests, because the results are easily observed in their large eyes.
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Is animal testing of cosmetics, personal care and household products necessary to protect consumers?

No. An abundance of evidence proves that animal testing contributes little or nothing to consumer safety, nor does it provide information for the effective treatment of injuries that may result from the use or misuse of the product. In fact, some products that have been found safe in animals have caused serious side effects in people.
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Does animal testing ensure that a product is safe to use?

Animal testing does not ensure that products are safe. Animal testing merely determines the level of toxicity. That’s why you’ll see products that have been tested on animals, yet can still cause serious injury or death—such as oven cleaners and hair bleach—on store shelves everywhere. No amount of animal testing can change the fact that many of these products are harmful if ingested or used in a way not intended by the manufacturer.
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Do vitamins have to be tested on animals?

The FDA does not require companies to test vitamins on animals, nor does it require FDA registration of vitamins. The FDA is mainly concerned with correct labeling of vitamins for their content, which can only be confirmed using chemical, rather than animal tests. The FDA would only animal-test a vitamin if the agency suspected that it contained a toxic agent.
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Must contact lens products be tested on animals?

Contact lenses and lens care products are considered medical devices, not pharmaceuticals. Although the FDA has not published any regulations requiring animal testing of contact lenses or lens care products, the agency has made available to manufacturers testing guidance documents that recommend preclinical testing on animals. Manufacturers that choose to use alternative procedures must provide documentation explaining why an alternate test procedure is an acceptable substitute. "Acceptable" in this case means that the procedure has been validated and accepted by the scientific community.
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If we didn't test products on animals, how could we be sure we're protecting the health and safety of consumers?

Animal testing is not the way to protect the health and safety of consumers because animal models cannot adequately predict the human response, such as allergic reactions, to substances. The public is far better served when products are tested using the many non-animal alternatives that are available.
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Has animal testing of cosmetics, personal care and household products increased or decreased in recent years?

Although animal testing of cosmetics and other consumer products continues, numerous companies have made significant progress in reducing and even eliminating animal testing. This progress is due in large part to pressure from the public and animal advocacy groups. As a result, fewer animals are used in the development of products than they were five years ago; however, the total number of animals used remains in the millions each year. Some well-known companies that do not test either their products or final ingredients on animals include: Gap, Inc., Revlon, Inc., Body Shop, Bath & Body Works, Paul Mitchell Products and more. Others, such as Procter & Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive and Unilever, although still involved in animal testing, have come forward with a commitment to end animal testing when viable non-animal alternatives can be used.
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What are the non-animal alternatives to product testing?

A couple of the most commonly used non-animal product safety tests include:

Murine Local Lymph Node Assay (ILNA), a method for assessing the allergic contact dermatitis of chemicals. The peer review panel concluded that the ILNA is a valid alternative to currently accepted guinea pig test methods, and that the ILNA reduces the number of animals required for testing and eliminates animal pain and distress.

Corrositex, an in vitro (test tube) method for assessing the dermal (skin) corrosivity or burn potential of certain classes of chemicals using a collagen matrix barrier as a kind of artificial skin.
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53 West Jackson Blvd., Suite 1552
Chicago, IL 60604
(800) 888-NAVS or (312) 427-6065
Fax: (312) 427-6524
navs@navs.org
© 2013 National Anti-Vivisection Society is a
501(c)3 non-profit organization