Thursday, June 3, 2010

Scratching Up an Animal-free Test for Dermatitis - by Lisa Poisso

Slathering on a soothing skin care product shouldn't give your conscience a case of the hives — but it's hard not to feel twitchy when you know that product has been tested on animals.

Despite failing time and time again to demonstrate reliable scientific relevance, animal testing continues to be a mainstay for companies seeking to reassure consumers (themselves? their stockholders?) about the safety and effectiveness of their products. But now there's a viable alternative on the horizon: a fast, simple, inexpensive method of testing to see if chemicals in soaps, shampoos, lotions and other products are likely to cause skin allergies in people — and no animal testing required.

Chemicals in skin care products bond with proteins in the skin, aggravating the immune system and causing an ugly rash of symptoms including redness, itching and irritation. A new test detailed in the American Chemical Society's Chemical Research in Toxicology uses nitrobenzenethiol to mimic skin proteins and bond to potential allergens. "This simple, rapid and inexpensive absorbance-based method has great potential for use as a preliminary screening tool for skin allergens," the report states. And animals in the process? Nowhere in sight.

You'd think that animal testing for something as innocuous as cosmetics and personal care products wouldn't be staggering under the heavy price of animal cruelty. Animals rarely make good models for the human body. And what of the moral price? When is it appropriate to purposely inflict pain on animals in order to develop a new line of mascara?

The European Union's Cosmetics Directive prohibits animal testing and bans the sale of all cosmetics that were developed using animal testing. In the United States, however, matters are much less clear. Until we can set stronger limits on animal testing and disabuse people of the notion that its results are somehow useful and appropriate, the best course of action is to avoid products that have been tested on animals.

Whenever I purchase personal care products, I always look to see if the items have been tested on animals or contain animal ingredients.  You can check out LEAPINGBUNNY.ORG or CARINGCONSUMER.COM for a list of cruelty free products!

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