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While the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act requires animal testing for pharmaceutical drugs and other chemical compounds that change the structure and function of the human body, it does not specifically require animal testing on cosmetics. However, it does require that manufacturers of cosmetics substantiate the safety of their products. Traditionally, manufacturers have justified their use of animal tests, such as the Draize and LD-50 tests, as a way to protect humans from harm.
The tradition of animal exploitation to determine the toxicity of a chemical or product is rapidly changing with the development of sophisticated new test methods that do not rely on animals, and with the realization that the results of testing on other species are not necessarily a reliable predictor of safety for humans. Progress is being made in the U.S. as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) no longer supports use of the LD-50 test and the FDA does not use the test any longer, although it continues to accept LD-50 data from manufacturers. Nonetheless, these and other government agencies still rely on data from animal tests in their mandates to protect the health and safety of humans, including vulnerable populations like children and the elderly, animals and the environment.
And while there has been a movement away from testing cosmetics and personal care products on animals over the course of many years as a result of scientific advancements, it has taken changes in the law to cement that change in Europe, India, Norway, Israel and other countries by requiring that safety testing, at least for cosmetics and some personal care and household products, be done without animals.
However, in other parts of the world, notably in China, animal testing requirements have forced companies that want to market their products there to meet their requirements for animal testing. International trade will continue to have a significant impact on the future of alternatives and an end to animal testing for cosmetics and personal care products.
In the U.S., the Humane Cosmetics Act has been re-introduced in Congress and would require private and governmental entities to stop using animals to test for the safety of cosmetics within a year of its passage. It would also prohibit the sale in the U.S. of cosmetics that were developed or manufactured using animals for testing within three years to allow stores to sell existing inventory. A continuously-updated listing of cruelty-free products that are already being sold in the U.S. can be found here.
The law is a useful tool for effecting change, but the science and society’s attitudes towards animals must be sufficiently developed for the law to evolve. It is hoped that the recent changes in Europe and in other parts of the world will result in the passage of new laws in the near future that will ultimately mean the end of animal testing—at least for cosmetics—throughout the world.