Oped: Add these products to the toss pile
This spring, as you dust cobwebs out of corners and pack up unwanted clothes for the charity thrift store, there's an important task that you may not have thought of: tossing cruelly produced items from your bathroom. If your soap, shampoo, toothpaste or deodorant were made by companies that still test on animals, it's time for a fresh start.
It's hard to believe that in this day and age — when more than 2,400 responsible companies have gone cruelty-free — some manufacturers are still needlessly poisoning and killing animals in order to test their products. Rats, mice, guinea pigs, rabbits and others are forced to swallow or inhale massive quantities of a test substance or endure immense pain as a chemical eats away at their eyes or skin. Some tests, such as the now-infamous lethal dose test, continue until a predetermined percentage of the animals dies.
No law in the U.S. requires companies to test personal-care products on animals — and such tests have been banned in the European Union, India, Israel, Norway, Switzerland, Turkey, Australia and New Zealand. Not only is using animals as test tubes cruel; it often produces inaccurate or misleading results. Even if a product has blinded an animal, it can still be sold to consumers.
Fortunately, the number of forward-thinking companies grows every day, as more and more manufacturers reject cruel and crude tests on animals — relics of the 1920s — and opt instead for modern, sophisticated techniques to evaluate the safety of their products. The results of non-animal tests are quick and accurate, and no one gets hurt.
If you don't spend your days working on this issue, as I do, you may not realize that there are a surprising number of pioneering non-animal tests now in use and more in development, including cell and tissue cultures, reconstructed skin grown from human cells and computer models that allow extrapolation of existing data to predict the activity of a chemical.
For example, the fluorescein leakage test method uses a fluorescent dye to measure a chemical's ability to break through a solid layer of cells, thereby mimicking the damage that the substance would cause to the eye. This spares rabbits the pain they endure when chemicals are dripped into their sensitive eyes. EpiDermTM — a 3-D, human cell-derived skin model that replicates key traits of normal human skin — is more accurate at predicting allergic responses than cruel tests on guinea pigs and mice, which involve injecting them with chemicals or smearing substances onto their shaved skin.
Even China, a country not known for its progressive stance on animal welfare, is moving forward on this issue. Late last year, the Chinese government, which currently requires cosmetics companies to pay for inhumane tests on animals, announced that it is accepting findings from the completely animal-free 3T3 Neutral Red Uptake Phototoxicity Assay, which tests chemicals for their potential toxicity when they come into contact with sunlight.
As these and other sophisticated tests show, we don't have to choose between protecting animals and keeping humans safe. It's really a choice between effective and ineffective science.
So this year, as you go about your spring cleaning, why not clear your conscience as well as your clutter? It's as simple as making the decision to support companies that are committed to animal-friendly principles by always buying cruelty-free. PETA has a searchable online database that makes finding cruelty-free products a breeze.
— Amanda Nordstrom is the company liaison for PETA's Beauty Without Bunnies program, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org.