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State bans on animal testing - what they do and what they exempt

States with animal test bans

More US states are moving to ban animal testing of cosmetics. Nine states now have bans: California, Nevada, Illinois, Virginia, Maryland, Maine, Hawaii, New Jersey, and Louisiana.

These efforts are supported by industry, largely because they reflect current industry practice. In general, the cosmetic industry now avoids all animal testing unless required by a specific regulation.

The main battle ahead is to change the minds of regulators requiring these tests.

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What the State Bans Do

The states have similar language for their bans, often word for word. The key provisions in the bans are:

  1. A cosmetic manufacturer cannot import or sell any cosmetic developed or manufactured using an animal test conducted after a specified date, usually January 1 of the year after the law took effect.

  2. The ban applies to tests on finished cosmetics and their ingredients.

  3. The ban applies to tests conducted or contracted by the manufacturer or any supplier of the manufacturer.

There are exceptions

Every state ban includes the same exceptions to the ban. The following list shows the exceptions and their effect on the cosmetics we use.

Exception

Effect

Tests on invertebrate animals

Allows tests on the water flea, the invertebrate typically used in cosmetic tests for ecosystem effects. Affects many cosmetic ingredients, including all made in or imported into the EU in quantities over 1 ton/year.

Tests on sunscreen active ingredients

Allows tests on the 16 FDA-approved active sunscreen ingredients. Likely related to the FDA's proposed new sunscreen regulation requiring new safety data. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are less likely to be affected, because the FDA's proposal designates these as Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS).

Allows tests for health emergencies under US/state regulations

Test is allowed only if all the following are true: A health problem is substantiated; the ingredient is widely used with no available substitute; and no accepted non-animal alternative test exists. Likely, few tests could meet all these criteria, so this likely is not a big issue.

Allows animal tests for foreign regulations; however, the tests can't be used to assess cosmetic safety

Affects many cosmetic ingredients, because the EU now can require animal testing of cosmetic ingredients under its chemicals regulation, called the REACH regulation. Already, at least one hundred cosmetic ingredients have been tested under REACH, and over time, most others probably will be, too. The EU REACH regulation probably is the biggest threat to ending animal testing of cosmetics.

Tests for a non-cosmetic purpose when the ingredient has non-cosmetic uses.

This affects most cosmetic ingredients, most of which have other uses, such as for household products.

A major difference in the language used by some states is significant:

  • California, Illinois, Maine, New Jersey & Louisiana exempt such tests (i.e., a cosmetic with such a test can be sold), but they ban use of the test in most cases for assessing cosmetic safety in their states. This promotes the shift to alternatives.
  • Nevada, Virginia, Maryland & Hawaii exempt such tests, and they also allow use of such tests to assess cosmetic safety in their states. By allowing use of the test to assess the cosmetic, they give companies no incentive to use non-animal alternatives.

Despite the exceptions, it's progress!

July 2021, updated August 2022

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