The Environmental Protection Agency, proposing major changes in how it judges the cancer threat from chemicals and pollutants, wants to depend less on old-style animal testing and more on recent advances in science.
The long-awaited changes could have sweeping effects on regulatory decisions under environmental laws.
"What it will do is bring the whole system up to the current state of science," agency spokesman John Kasper said Monday. "It will refine the system." The 170-page proposal would result in less reliance on the results from animal testing and more on microbiological research and other studies. The recommendations are to be published today in the Federal Register. The EPA's testing guidelines to assess the cancer risk of chemicals and pollutants have been under review for several years. The proposals will be open for public comment for 120 days. Currently, the EPA assumes that if a substance causes tumors in a lab animal, it will do so in humans. Critics have said that giving massive doses of chemicals to lab animals may overstate the risk to humans. In the past 10 years, the knowledge about cancer's behavior has grown significantly. Agency officials said the new guidelines were designed to take advantage of that knowledge. The new guidelines also would "take into account a lot more exposure routes," Kasper said. …