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June 4, 2009

The HSUS, HSLF Applaud EPA's New Non-Animal Eye Irritation Labeling

US Corporate Leadership Recognized for Groundbreaking Initiative

The Humane Society of the United States

WASHINGTON — Rabbits in U.S. laboratories will be spared having "germ-killing" antimicrobial cleaning products dripped in their eyes thanks to a new program that does not use animals to test and label these products for their eye irritancy potential.

The EPA announced on June 2 that it plans to implement the new labeling initiative, which was developed in collaboration with consumer product heavyweights The Procter & Gamble Company, Clorox, Colgate Palmolive, Dial, Ecolab, JohnsonDiversey, Inc. and S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc., with support from the Institute for In Vitro Sciences and animal protection organizations including The Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society Legislative Fund.

"The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society Legislative Fund gratefully acknowledge the progress of this collaborative initiative by U.S. antimicrobial cleaning product manufacturers and the EPA Office of Pesticide Programs, which will quite literally mean the difference between life and death for countless rabbits who would otherwise be blinded and killed in inhumane and outmoded eye irritation tests," said The HSUS senior science policy advisor Troy Seidle.

The conventional animal test for eye irritation involves instilling a test substance into the eyes of conscious rabbits and monitoring, using a crude 1940s-era scoring system, the degree of swelling, inflammation, and other types of eye injury that are evident at defined time points. It is not uncommon for animals to be kept for observation for up to three weeks — without pain relief— to determine the degree to which irritant effects are reversible over time.

In contrast, the non-animal approach that EPA has provisionally adopted involves the sequential use of several cell-based and other "in vitro" test systems to judge whether, or to what degree, a cleaning product is capable of harming the eyes, as a basis for consumer hazard labeling. These rabbit-free methods include the reconstructed human cell line model EpiOcular; the Cytosensor Microphysiometer, which evaluates the metabolic rate of cell populations; and the Bovine Corneal Opacity and Permeability test, which makes use of the eyes of slaughtered cattle that would otherwise be discarded. Rigorous assessments have been made regarding the scientific validity of these methods, both individually and as part of this testing strategy, to ensure that antimicrobial cleaning products are appropriately labeled for the protection of consumers who use these products in their homes.

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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. The HSUS works closely with U.S. regulatory agencies and corporate stakeholders to encourage a move toward animal-free approaches to safety testing for the 21st century. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — on the web at humanesociety.org.

The Humane Society Legislative Fund is a social welfare organization incorporated under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code and formed in 2004 as a separate lobbying affiliate of The Humane Society of the United States. The HSLF works to pass animal protection laws at the state and federal level, to educate the public about animal protection issues, and to support humane candidates for office. On the web at hslf.org.

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