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Washington – The Environmental Protection Agency is trying to sharply cut its use of animals for toxicity testing.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a directive to senior staff signed Tuesday that “scientific advancements exist today” that permit the agency to better predict potential hazards to humans while reducing or avoiding animal testing.

Wheeler said EPA will cut back on its request for spending on mammal studies by 30% by 2025 and eliminate all requests and funding for animal testing by 2035. He’s directing EPA’s leadership team to form a working group of agency experts to come up with a plan within six months for accomplishing these goals.

The agency did not immediately provide information about how much it spends on animal testing or how extensive it is.

Among the options to animal testing that Wheeler mentioned are computer modeling and in vitro methods, which involves tests using human cells and tissues.

Wheeler says the EPA also is steering $4.25 million to five universities to further research alternatives to animal testing. He sidestepped a question about whether the chemical industry had pushed for EPA to cut back on tests that use animals, which can take longer and cost more than alternative methods.

“I’ve not been lobbied by a single chemical company on this,” Wheeler said, although he didn’t know if any chemical companies talked to anyone else at the agency. “This is a longstanding issue of interest to me, personally, and that’s what brought this about.”

Justin Goodman, vice president of advocacy and public policy at the White Coat Waste Project, said animal testing is a bad investment for taxpayers yet has become entrenched in the culture of federal agencies. He called the initiative outlined by Wheeler a “big win for taxpayers, animals and obviously the environment.”

Amy Clippinger, director of the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals’ regulatory testing department, said the organization’s “scientists will be collaborating with regulatory agencies and companies to help them switch to efficient and effective, non-animal testing approaches and finally replace toxicity tests on all animals.”

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