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Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public HealthCAAT

CAATALYST: A Student Newsletter

Volume 1, Number 2

CAATALYST \kat-l-est\ n. (1981): 1) An individual or organization working to reduce, refine and replace animal use in the life sciences; 2) an agent that provokes significant change.

Letters to CAAT

  • I strongly oppose the use of animals for the testing of cosmetics and household chemicals. I was informed that tests such as the Draize and LD50 tests are not required by law. Meanwhile, I spoke to companies that told me it is a law and it is absolutely necessary. I am hoping that you can help me clear up some discrepancies... Jennifer Zalinski, Kingston, RI
  • I am very much against animal testing and I try not to buy products from companies that do tests on animals. What I don't understand is why smaller companies can produce high quality products without animal testing, but the larger companies seem to feel animal testing is necessary...Lori Hallwirth, Apollo, PA
  • I would like to know how your organization promotes the rights of animals and what alternatives are available to animal testing. I would also like to know if you have any recent lists available which name the companies still testing on animals...Nicki Atkinson, West Chester, PA

"Not Tested on Animals?"

Today, many companies advertise their products as "Cruelty-free" or "Not Tested on Animals." But what do these and similar phrases really mean? Letters sent to CAAT and to individual companies reveal that buyers do not really understand the meaning of these terms. Some possible meanings of "Not Tested on Animals" (NTA) claims include:

  • the company has not personally tested the product on animals but has purchased ingredients from a supplier who has animal-tested those ingredients.
  • the product and/or its ingredients have not been animal tested within the past five years. This is called the rolling five year rule because the deadline "rolls" from year to year.
  • the company does not manufacture or buy products or ingredients which have been tested on animals beyond a fixed cut-off date.
  • the company attempts to determine the safety of its finished products (made from ingredients known to be safe) using in vitro and other alternatives, including the use of human volunteers.
  • any combination of the above

The bottom line is that ALL cosmetic ingredients have been tested on animals at some point in time, or are known to be safe based upon decades of use. The Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, passed by the United States Congress in 1938, said that manufacturers are obliged to prove that their products are safe. For many years, the only method government and manufacturers used to establish safety was animal testing.

The Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act was passed after a number of American women were injured by an eyelash dye called Lash-Lure over fifty years ago. Some of the women were blinded by the product; one died. These tragedies occured around the same time that a medicine called sulfanilimide killed over 100 American men, women and children. At that time, it was not necessary for manufacturers to test their products. After the Lash-Lure and Sulfanilimide tragedies, the public demanded reform and the U.S. government took steps to insure that these disasters would not be repeated, including developing tests for possible problems like eye irritation. By law, manufacturers must generate data which proves that their products are safe.

This is easier if a company is small and manufactures a limited range of products, which are composed of ingredients known to be safe. Larger companies, which create ingredients as well as products, are in a more difficult situation, because they have a responsibility by law to insure that newly developed ingredients for use in innovative new products, are safe.

The ingredients developed by these manufacturers and by chemical companies can then be sold to companies to make new products. In some cases, companies which advertise themselves as against animal testing have purchased new animal-tested ingredients from large companies to use in their own NTA products.

Most cosmetic and personal care companies today are using the latest in vitro and other alternatives to test their products and ingredients--even those who do NOT label their merchandise "Not Tested on Animals." As more in vitro methods are accepted, companies will be able to decrease further the need for animal testing.


  • Alternatives- Methods that replace, reduce or refine the use of animals in resesarch, education and testing.
  • The Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act- Legislation passed by the United States Congress in 1938 which stated that manufacturers were obligated to generate data which illustrated the safety of their products.
  • In Vitro- Latin for "in glass," a term used to describe studies done with cells or tissues cultured in petri dishes. In vivo or "in life" studies are done in the living animal.
  • Lash-Lure- An eyelash dye, applied by operators in beauty salons, which harmed American women in the 1930's and led to the passage of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.
  • Rolling Five Year Rule- A policy followed by some cosmetic and personal care companies in which ingredients which have been animal tested may be purchased by "cruelty-free" companies after five years have elapsed. The deadline "rolls" from year to year.