A ban of animal tests in the production of cosmetics will jeopardizethe health of Maryland residents as well as stifle the state's emerging biotech industries, opponents said yesterday.
State health andeconomic development officials joined industry leaders opposing two bills introduced by Delegate George W. Owings, D-Owings, that would prohibit laboratories from subjecting live animals to eye irritancy and acute toxicity tests.
Owings and supporters of his bills told members of the House Judiciary Committee that the testing causes unnecessary suffering and death among laboratory animals. They argued the tests are inaccurate predictors of what is harmful to humans. And alternatives are available,they said.
"These bills address an outdated and archaic form of testing,"said Owings. "This doesn't do anything except ban testing I feel is no longer necessary."
Although some cosmetic companies havestopped using animals tests, industry researchers need the tests to ensure the safety of new products, and alternatives are severely limited, opponents said.
Dr. Gary Oderda, director of the Maryland Poison Control Center, said laboratories use the tests to weed out potentially poisonous cosmetics. He told lawmakers the bills would jeopardize the health of Maryland residents.
"There are not any real alternatives which can completely replace testing on live animals," said an associate pathology professor from the University of Maryland. "Weneed it at least as a last resort."
Selig Solomon, director of technology development for the state Department of Economic Developmentand Employment, said Maryland has emerged as a leader in biotechnology. Now, as local companies are about to move three decades of research into products, he said, "You're sending a message, a signal that Maryland is not friendly to biotech."
In the Draize eye irritancy test, laboratories place the product in a rabbit's eye and observe theextent of the damage caused over a 72-hour period, Owings said. To determine toxicity, groups of animals are forced to eat or inhale the product until 50 percent die, he said.
Only four industry laboratories in the state still rely on animal tests, said Owings, referring to a 1989 study by the Governor's Task Force on Animal Testing. As hespoke, Owings was flanked by baskets of national brand soaps, detergents and cosmetic products that he said were made without animal testing.
"The only opposition to these bills stems from the domino theory: 'Oh, if we ban these cruel tests, then we'll have to ban all theother cruelties we like to subject animals to,' " said Dr. Neal Barnhardt, a psychiatrist on the Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine.