The Environmental Protection Agency’s radical environmental agenda is ironically pushing into to a position that is both contrary to science and to the animal welfare position.
The animal welfare positions holds that while animal experiments have played a crucial role in our increasing medical knowledge, wherever possible researchers should reduce the number of animals they use or replace them altogether with alternatives, provided reducing or replacing animals provides data as robust and accurate as traditional methods.
In a bizarre twist, the EPA is currently arguing, however, that safety data produced from human clinical trials should be reject in favor of safety data derived from animals. Why? Because the human safety data doesn’t appear to give EPA the environmentally correct answers it wants.
The first volley in this fight is the insecticide chlorpyrifos, sold over the counter as Dursban. Dursban is a highly effective insecticide that appears to be very safe. Dursban’s manufacturer conducted safety trials of the insecticide where human volunteers were paid to ingest the chemical and then from that data a safe threshold was set.
As Steve Milloy writes in an article on the controversy,
There is much less uncertainty if human testing is involved,so acceptable exposure levels are usually set 19 times lower than the “no effect” dose. Because human testing involves a lower safety factor, it often leads to a higher permitted exposure levels. But pesticide opponents want lower permitted exposure levels — preferably so low that pesticide use is not practical.
In other words, when manufacturers test a chemical in human beings, it often turns out to be safer than animal data would otherwise suggest. But the EPA gets funding and publicity for banning unsafe compounds, and so it has taken the only recourse left to it — attacking human testing.
Essentially the EPA claims it is unethical to use even consenting human subjects to test the safety of an insecticide and in Dursban’s case says that none of the human testing data can be used to measure it safety. So what’s left? A study of pregnant rats who were fed large doses of Dursban, resulting in maternal sickness which in turn led to damage of the fetuses.
So even though the human safety data indicates Dursban is perfectly safe at concentrations it is sold in, the EPA recently banned the insecticide except when used at a level 1,000 times lower than the human safety data indicate is necessary — effectively making it impossible to use for controlling insects in the home.
This is a ridiculous position that undermines the elementary principles of medical research — extensive animal testing followed by clinical trials in human beings. As Jay Goodman, a professor of pharmacology and toxicology at Michigan State University wrote to the EPA:
I view the testing in question as being similar to the clinical trials of potential new drugs and I do not see that it presents an ethical problem. A very large body of animal data provides a strong base to embark on human testing.
The EPA claim that testing compounds on human beings is unethical even after extensive safety testing in nonhuman animals has been done is as wrongheaded as the animal rights view that testing should be done only in human beings. Animal and human tests each form part of the puzzle, and neither can completely replace the other.