Rosalind Anderson earned the Ph.D. degree in Physiology from Yale University and studied respiratory toxicology as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pittsburgh with Dr. Yves Alarie. For many years she was head of the toxicology department at Arthur D. Little. In 1987 she formed Anderson Laboratories Inc. together with Julius Anderson. The lab is one of the few independent toxicology laboratories in this country.

Rosalind Anderson is an international leader in the study of health effects of indoor air pollutants and has numerous publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals. She is a member of several honorary scientific societies. She has worked for individuals, contractors, trade associations, major corporations, and city, state, and federal governments. She has testified in numerous courts of law and in several US congressional hearings concerning health effects of airborne chemicals. Her Vermont laboratory is the only one in the country to perform tests on household products.

Can you explain how the test works?
Rosalind Anderson: At Anderson Laboratories we study the biological effects of chemicals which off-gas from common commercial products. For example we can take a piece of carpet or any small item and seal it into a glass chamber where we can collect the chemical emissions. Mice are placed in a separate glass chamber with their heads in the central chamber where the air is pumped in. So for the first half-hour they breathe a charcoal filtered room air (what we call the “control period”). Then for one hour they breathe the sample air. We measure the breathing of each animal with an airflow-measuring device: when the mouse breathes in, when it breathes out, when it pauses, how fast it breathes, how long it takes to breathe in, and how that compares with how it was in the control period. From the breathing patterns we can diagnose several types of toxicity. After the exposure we examine the animals and then systematically study them for signs of neurotoxicity.

What do the breathing patterns tell you exactly?
Rosalind Anderson: The mice can accurately predict the presence of sensory irritants and they can tell you how potent that irritant is. What we are looking for is, ultimately, airborne chemicals that have an effect on the nervous system (direct and indirect effects on how the mice breathe): we can identify an asthma trigger, pulmonary or sensory irritants.

For example: Sensory irritation is seen in mice as the pause between the end of inspiration and the beginning of expiration: the mouse breathes in, pauses, then it breaths out. The more potent the irritant is, the longer they pause. With long pauses, the overall breathing rate decreases. And if you have a very potent irritant in the mixture, the mice are close to death. But as soon as we turn the exposure off, they are usually OK. They generally come right back.

The test gives us a way to categorize things such as  mixtures. For example EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) studies show that you get several hundred chemicals emitted by one carpet. If you start with standard testing, it would take forever to know what the individual chemicals do. But we are not interested in knowing what each chemical individually does, we care about the potential effects of the mixture in a carpet, in one perfume, one air freshener, etc.

Who invented the test?
Rosalind Anderson: It was developed for the US Army,  Department of Defense, during the Vietnam war. The computer software was developed in the late 70’s by Dr. Yves Alarie at the University of Pittsburgh together with the programmer Randy Johnson.

What happens to the mice after the exposure to the sample air?
Rosalind Anderson: After the exposure we give the mice 15 minutes to do some more breathing (of clean air) to see if they recover. And then we do a real simple neurological evaluation and we score them. About half of the scores are numerical: Can they climb up-hill, can they pick up something, can they hold on to a screen: Yes/No.

Other evaluations are observational: Is the mouse acting bizarre, does he behave in a standard way to a pinch on the tail or when we blow on him. We also see animals that are paralyzed, one or more legs just don't work. Whether it is permanent or temporary depends on what they have been exposed to and for how long and which mouse it is, cause they have different responses.

For example you test indoor air, from “sick buildings” [*]?
Rosalind Anderson: If somebody wants to, we can take air from a building where people are having trouble and we bring it to our lab and we test it.
We don't just take air from the building, but we take air from the outside of the building and from inside of the building where people are unhappy, and from inside of the building where people are not unhappy, if there is such a place. So we test all of those samples and we find out whether the problem is originating in the outside air. But in almost every case we have done this, the outside air is just fine. The inside air is just awful. And we can find this evidence because we are using a sensitive living system to detect it.

But the rest of the world is not using a living system. They are using chemistry. But with the chemist’s set you never find anything present in huge quantities. But it is not a huge quantity of something that is making people so sick. It is the mixture of these chemicals! And because toxicology is very archaic when it comes to testing mixtures, the scientific world has little data on what mixtures do. There is no place where you can look up a mixture of ten chemicals in any proportions, much less the proportions you find in a particular building.

So the chemist comes back and says: Nothing there! Send the workers back into the building, there is no problem! Let’s have some social rehabilitation! But our animal data gives a completely different picture!

[*Sick Building Syndrome: a variety of illnesses in people who have been working in buildings that are seriously polluted by toxic chemicals; people who are getting sicker and sicker because they are getting more and more exposed and the exposures occur every day they go to work.]

Can you give an example of one air test you did?
Rosalind Anderson: In two occasions we have been to schools that had some pretty bad complaints. We have taken air samples from the outside and from the good places and the bad places in these schools. The test shows the outside air is just fine; the good places are just fine though not great, and the sample from the bad places has killed the mice. And we only have enough air for a 15 min exposure! So we are killing animals with 15 minutes of breathing that air! And in each case the air was coming from a kindergarten room. That is absolutely terrifying. It is so frightening that people don't want us to do the test. They don't want to know the answer! They think it’s too expensive to deal with it. But this is not necessarily true! You can do simple things that will make a huge impact, like opening windows, turning on the ventilation system; you can take care of moldy places and you can get rid of felt tip markers. In the one school where we had the chance to go back after they have done these silly little things, the changes dramatically improved the air in this school! It made a huge difference!

So we can learn from the mice what we can't learn from people and we avoid the nonsense about secondary gain. People who are complaining about building air are always accused of looking for the secondary gain. (They want free lunch, they want the corner office...) There is always the discussion of whether there is not a psychological problem. The mice don't have a psychology in the same way. They don't have a chance of getting a better job, the chance of having a lunch program. We don't have to worry about the secondary gain. So the mice show us how to fill in the data gap with people saying “this makes me sick” and the industry saying “I don't know why”.

Why are mice the perfect animal to do this kind of testing?
Rosalind Anderson: Mice are mammalian vertebrates like us but mice are cheap. What we are measuring  is a reflex present in all mammals, but it is more measurable in some animals than in others. In a guinea pig, for example, if you get a sensory irritant, their nose starts to run; this is rather hard to measure in the laboratory. You expose a dog, it will bark. That’s not useful.

Mice are cheap and have easily measured responses; they are consistent and readily available; and the animal rights people usually don’t get too concerned about the use of mice. In fact our laboratory animals are treated better than many people are. They have air conditioning, perfect light timing, certified food, and bottled water. They have a pretty good life! They have one hour during which they breathe what we would breathe. If it is OK for me to breathe it, I think it's OK for a mouse to breathe it.  As long as it is acceptable for human experience, human exposure, human experimentation, if you want to put it that way, which I do, then I think some other species can share the experience, if I can learn a whole lot from it.

What kind of mouse are you working with?
Rosalind Anderson: We have a particular type of mouse. This is a Swiss Webster mouse, male between 25 and 28 grams.

Why don’t people use female mice?
Rosalind Anderson: In the 70’s and 80’s while working with Dr. Alarie, we did tests with both sexes, and there wasn't much differences – except, because the female mouse has an estrogen cycle of only four days duration, you get somewhat different data depending on which day you do the test. So the data gets harder to work with; you need larger groups to get tight averages. Usually we test only in male mice because you do not need as many exposed animals to get a decent group average result.

What kind of things are you testing, which products?
Rosalind Anderson: We started out looking specifically at products that cause people complaints, health complaints: Standard commercial stuff is causing somebody extreme difficulty. Someone can't tolerate a particular fragrance, a particular detergent or soap or hair dye. One person is having trouble, and the other person is saying they are nuts. So they send us a sample and we test it. We put the sample in the chamber, close it, run air through it, take the air to the mice and the mice breathe it and they tell us if it is a problem or not. And we can do that with paint, with wallboard, insulation, roofing material, diapers…

We have tested carpets, plastic toys, shower curtains, trash bags, computers, printers, copy paper… We use the most ordinary sample that you would think don’t deserve testing.

What kind of things are you testing, which products?
Rosalind Anderson: We started out looking specifically at products that cause people complaints, health complaints: Standard commercial stuff is causing somebody extreme difficulty. Someone can't tolerate a particular fragrance, a particular detergent or soap or hair dye. One person is having trouble, and the other person is saying they are nuts. So they send us a sample and we test it. We put the sample in the chamber, close it, run air through it, take the air to the mice and the mice breathe it and they tell us if it is a problem or not. And we can do that with paint, with wallboard, insulation, roofing material, diapers…

We have tested carpets, plastic toys, shower curtains, trash bags, computers, printers, copy paper… We use the most ordinary sample that you would think don’t deserve testing.

Have you tested pesticides on the mice?
Rosalind Anderson: We try not to, because we have such frightening results from things that are supposed to be “normal”, like dish-detergent. If that’s so toxic, we really don't want to go to things that are supposed to be poisonous. We avoid pesticides like the plague. Pesticides are a serious problem, but we do not want to risk contaminating our laboratory with pesticides.

We don't have a ventilation system that is powerful enough. With the ventilation system we have, we would have to take the whole system out, get it decontaminated, take it to the trash and install a whole new system. So we have avoided pesticides as much as we can.

What about paint?
Rosalind Anderson: Paints are very interesting because in California there has been a great impetus to make paints that are low in volatile organic chemicals. Volatile organic chemicals have been the basis of the fresh paint smell that people have complained about for eons. So the paint manufacturers were realizing that they had a major problem there. So they got to work and cleaned their paints. They took those volatile organic chemicals out of the paint and now they can advertise “low VOC”. So people think paints are safe now!

It turns out, that when they took the volatile organic chemicals out, they put something else in. Now we have a paint which doesn't smell and has less eye irritation, but in most paints we tested, we had more neuro-toxicity. So it’s just a different kind of toxicity. But now they can paint a school anytime they want, while the kids are in class, because it doesn't have the characteristic smell that people have learned to avoid. We have gotten into this kind of gamesmanship…

Rosalind Anderson: We have done tests on ten different felt tip markers, all the kinds we could find. Out of ten we found two which appear to be pretty good! The other eight are all seriously toxic. When you go into a school and look around, there are never less then 20 open felt tip markers. Something is not working right as far as product development and product stewardship is concerned!  Our society is making some big mistakes.

Fabric softeners:
Rosalind Anderson: We have had people complain about the smells of fabric softeners. We provide it to the mice and the mice go berserk. All the ones we have been able to try have been seriously toxic for mammals! And that is an animal group that includes us.

All of these things are contributing on a continuing basis to the indoor air pollution. And that’s where we live! Indoors is far worse than outdoors. Air pollution can involve 100 times higher concentrations inside than outside. So we don't have to look for lead and mercury poisoning in our back yard. We look at air fresheners!

And what we are learning more and more is that the ordinary products we are using, commercial products that we are buying, are very frequently nasty! They are making people sick. People are wearing clothes that are carrying around toxic chemicals. Some people can get away with not recognizing it. But a lot of people take one breathe of that and it can make them sick instantly.

How can these products be put on the market?
Rosalind Anderson: Ethically they can't. Legally who is to stop them? There is no agency which prevents toxic items coming onto the market. There is one agency which is empowered to care after an item gets into commerce. It is the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

One thing they do is collect complaints. So one thing you can do is, if you care, call them and complain about a product which makes you sick. Or you can call them up and ask them for their complaint list for some specific type of product. Mattresses are big one right now. People are buying mattresses which are really devastating for their health. We have called the CPSC and we got their list of complaints and we know that about 800 people have called and said “my health totally collapsed when I bought this mattress”. It is of course difficult for individuals to send us a mattress. But people have done it. We got actual mattresses and they tested very toxic to mice. This includes the high price, the low price, semi-organic ones, guaranteed organic ones. Mattresses are really very dangerous at this moment.

A group like the CPSC is the only agency that we have in this country which should be paying attention to consumer products. Because they are not assertive, the manufactures practically have a free-for-all. They can do what they want. The way the system works at the moment is that if you are a manufacturer and you choose to test your product and you find something nasty about the product, you are expected to report that to the EPA. And then you spend a while fighting with EPA as to whether it’s important or not, and what to do about it and so forth. But that’s not very attractive to a manufacturer, so they keep reading the small print of law and it says if you choose not to test, God bless you. So what are you going to do? Spend 10,000 dollars testing something so you can fight with the EPA for 10 years?

We cannot pretend to be surprised that what we are getting on the market: we are getting products that are never tested for chemical safety. The result is that the consumer is the guinea pig for everything that you buy. Any individual might say, "That’s fine. I want it and I bear part of the responsibility of evaluating it."  But the majority of people are not in agreement. In fact we have a society agreement that says we will not test in people. If we were to agree to large scale product testing in people the important thing would be to collect the data after we initiate the exposure: Imagine the phone call to Mrs. Jones: “Hey, you bought a television yesterday. How is your health?” That does not and will not happen. What we are doing instead is to expose millions of people and collect no data. So it is a secret experiment that cannot possibly give us any feedback. We are free floating in an untested sea of products. This is very unsatisfactory.

We are the  Guinea pigs, we are the mice…
Rosalind Anderson: So there you are…

What about perfume?
Rosalind Anderson: It is better to talk about fragranced products than perfume. If we are talking about a perfume the people who make and use fragranced soap or mouthwash or disposable diapers cling to the idea that it s is not a “perfume” and is therefore not included in the warnings. We have tested a lot of fragranced products and we have published data on perfume and fragranced products. Fragrances are ubiquitous; they are being incorporated in virtually every product you can think of. They are almost exclusively untested and they are almost exclusively synthetic. There is almost no natural chemistry in a perfume anymore, and they are extremely dangerous. They can be neurotoxic, and cause sensory and pulmonary irritation in great many people. They are asthma triggers. We have not tested one single perfume which was not an asthma trigger.

Fragrances cause a rapid, serious impact in a fairly high percentage of the population of this country, especially because fragrances can be both allergenic and toxic, and an asthma trigger. Fragrance mixtures may work in any one or all three of those categories. So you have a big population of people who are at risk with perfume.

We are seeing the beginning of an acknowledgment that this is a real problem for real people. There are places in California, some schools in Canada, and some towns in Massachusetts which don’t allow fragrances in hospitals and public meetings. So we are beginning to see some progress there.

You get better awareness and responsible behavior in situations where you can attach air pollution to asthma. Because people believe asthma. You can see that people are suffering from asthma. It's ugly when a person with asthma starts reacting to perfume, and you make the connection. That is very helpful for public awareness. But it’s a disaster for people with asthma.

Asthma rates have been going sky high for the past 20 years. It just went exponentially up. Look at how much perfume and fragrance is being sold and where it is being advertised, which magazines have it. They even started to put fragrance in garbage bags. And of course it comes from psychology. There are a lot of studies that say the right fragrance will sell this product.

You are the only lab to test household products in the US. How do you make your findings public and why does it not go into guidelines?
Rosalind Anderson: We publish our findings in the scientific press. This is because in order for something to be scientifically acceptable, it must be in the scientific press. We don't do anything else with it, because we can't find the right thing to do. Julius (my husband) and I are not activists; we are scientists. So we just send it out to the journal of environmental health or whatever and that’s the end of it.

How is it possible to do what you do without big corporate funding?
Rosalind Anderson: We do a different kind of testing for a living. We do a fire toxicity test for products that are being registered for use in New York City. The profits from our fire testing are used to support our product toxicity testing program.

So people send in soaps and hope that you will have time to test it and don't have to pay for it?
Rosalind Anderson: They certainly hope the first. But now we cannot afford to do the testing without being paid, and when they hear the price, they just throw away the soap. Because you are not going to spend the kind of money which an individual would have to spend, to test a specific product that you already know makes you sick! And that's what we tell people: The price is $1,100 for testing a product. You are not going to spend that on a bar of soap that you can toss, just get rid of it! And they think about it for a while and then they toss the soap.

So we are not doing much testing for individuals anymore. In 1992 we would test carpets for free because the results were so terrifying and so ugly and the people were so upset! We performed a public service to let people know that, contrary to what they were being told by industry, they were not crazy. We got two-square inches of carpet and were running six liters of clean air a minute over these little two-square inches of carpet, and the mice died. We tell those people that we think this is a very serious problem and they better get rid of that carpet. They weep. And they do or do not get rid of the carpet.

What size of a carpet sample are you talking about?
Rosalind Anderson: The smallest size of carpet that ever killed a mouse was one square inch.

Within an hour and a half?
Rosalind Anderson: And as a matter of fact that was a carpet we bought; we went out and bought a sample. We were trying to determine whether carpets as they come from the store were toxic or whether the owners had done something to these carpets like dropping cigarette ashes on it, or moth proofing it. So we went out to a number of stores and bought different carpets and tested them. And we actually got a carpet that killed mice at one square inch! At that point we figured the carpet industry had a giant problem. And that point we got into a fight with the EPA. We went to the EPA and said carpets are killing mice and they said NO; 

Of course it cannot be as simple as that! You would have to spend 8 million dollars to prove something that simple...

Actually that happened. We tested hundreds of carpets for people and we got terrifying data. So we went to Congressman Bernie Sanders and we said: "we have this extraordinary data and if we wait to publish it, it will take two years before it becomes public knowledge. What else can we do?" And he said: "Well, we can arrange congressional hearings." So we had hearings in the senate and the house about carpet toxicity, and we presented our data and other people presented “they are crazy” and so forth.

Ultimately the EPA was instructed to study carpet toxicity and try to repeat what we had done. Well, they couldn't figure quite out how to do it, so they came to our lab and set up their equipment; and we worked together on the same samples, traded mice and samples and recorders, and they got exactly the same data we got. Then they went home and they couldn’t get it to work right. So they called up and asked us to come down to North Carolina and help figure out what was wrong with their setup.

We went down to North Carolina and discovered they had not connected the sample chamber to the animal chamber so there was no exposure! In another experiment, when we were all done and we were beginning to look at the data, the technician came in from the other room where they keep the pump which moves the air from the sample chamber to the animal chamber. He came in and said: “Hey, did you want me to turn on the pump?” Again no exposure! And things of that sort continued to happen.

One important thing is to have a technician who knows how to handle mice and who has done this test before. They hired a technician on Thursday and began running this test on Friday. He had never touched a mouse before, didn’t have any control data, nothing. That kind of thing added up to a very, very expensive project for them. But if you do not have the proper intent, you can't get the data, and they didn’t. It got to be a really nasty shoving match; very unpleasant.

What I learned was that when an agency finds or confirms that a serious problem exists, they are likely to step on the toes of somebody who is on one or more congressional funding committees, i.e. someone who is in the Senate or House and has control of money going to that agency. And if you happen to be a North Carolina Senator and someone is dumping on carpets, or a Georgia Senator (a part of the carpet industry is located in northern Georgia), you will try to make sure that the EPA drops that kind of study that next time around. If an agency takes a strong position, they are likely to get killed. It is very interesting to see how politics controls science.

At the same time that we were announcing our carpet results, the EPA was negotiating with the carpet industry about how carpets would be cleaned up. It was a game called the “carpet dialog” and they were fighting over nouns and verbs and language. Simultaneously the EPA was being sued by the professional union of their own workers, about the air quality in their own headquarters after they had bought and installed new carpeting. They had a lot of people who were sick and could not enter the building. So there was a lot of politics focusing on EPA and carpets and air quality.

And we marched in saying: “Hey, look at this!  Isn’t this interesting? We have all this awful data about how carpets kill mice”. That was not what they needed to hear right then. We got into a fight which was extremely ugly and they have never forgotten it.

Subsequently I would get calls from people who would say we are having meeting next March and I want you to give a paper. And I would say I will be happy to come. They call two days later and say, you know I can't invite you to give that paper, I am really sorry to do this, I am embarrassed and everything, but the EPA is supporting this meeting and if we want the EPA money we can’t have you.

This has happened to me three times. Even in 2005 the EPA still arranges individuals to attend my speeches and harass me. So the EPA has a grudge which is now over 10 years old concerning carpet data.

And yet the EPA now has carpet standards for their buildings and they have all kinds of requirements that a carpet must pass. The EPA is doing indoor air quality studies and we have all kinds of demonstrations that some carpets have nasty effects on human health and/or performance. But the EPA will not acknowledge the truth of Anderson Laboratories carpet data. This is very damaging to our business and psyche!

You mentioned you got some threats?
Rosalind Anderson: We had a burglary in our lab in Massachusetts which was conducted in a way as to make it very clear that they could get in any time they wanted, and get any data they wanted, whoever THEY might have been. Then there was somebody who stood outside and stared at the lab for about three weeks. He couldn't have been too smart. He stood directly across the street and watched to see what was going on; poor soul got very cold and he didn't help anybody. And then we got some dead rodents on our front door step, presumably as a message. Actually we did get a death threat when we moved to Vermont. We brought it to the local police and they were not interested and put the letter into a file.

But the industry realized that as they engaged in the fight, they brought attention to the data. So it was very much to their advantage not to pursue it, not to talk about it, not to acknowledge it. And at the same time the carpet industry published a good carpet symbol: a green seal they put on carpets, which means they have been tested for a couple of things, but not for inhalation toxicity. I don't have a lot of faith in that program: soon after they started the green seal program, I went to a carpet dealer and said: “I want a carpet, but I really want one with a green seal. Have you got one?” “Oh don’t worry lady”, and he went to his drawer and he took out a green seal and said: “which one do you want it on?”

So you must be pretty frustrated about doing all this work, seeing that it would have such a big impact if people would listen.
Rosalind Anderson: Frustration can be very high. Unfortunately it becomes a commentary on how difficult it is to have any impact at all on subjects that people don't want to hear about, and that is the ultimate frustration! The net result for me is really very painful. We have this information, but we don't know how to share it effectively. You have to publish it in the scientific press, because otherwise it doesn’t count.  But we don't know what the other avenues are.

Do you, at this point, derive any satisfaction from just knowing, and having the data and knowing the truth?
Rosalind Anderson: No, I find that terribly disturbing. Because I don't want to be the owner of this information, I want the world to be the owner of this information. Because there has to be a change! We have more and more people who are sick, we have more and more situations where instead of figuring out what’s wrong, we go to an expensive band aid which is just making things worse.

Is anyone carrying on and repeating your kind of testing?
Rosalind Anderson: There is nobody who is interested! You see what we have is a magnificent money-loosing proposition! For a young scientist who might think this is a thrilling line of endeavor, if he gets into this, he'll find that he has just killed his career because he has taken a position unpopular to the largest industries of this country. He has taken a position that is not financially viable. He can’t get grants to do the studies because in order to get grants to do scientific studies, you have to choose an area that the agencies care about and are willing to fund (i.e. will not step on the toes of their political constituencies)!

Can you talk about psychological effects of toxins?
Rosalind Anderson: Well, I cannot tap into a psychology of a mouse. I can only know things I can measure. And if I can’t measure it, I can’t prove it. On the other hand what we are seeing is something not psychological but neurological. What we are finding is that we have a lot of products with solvents in them. We know enough about solvents to know that they, as opposed to many other chemicals, go straight through all of barrier membranes into the nervous system. And we are measuring changes in the nervous system. If you have physical changes in the nervous system you can't stand up, you can't turn over, you can’t walk on a balance beam, etc.

And the central nervous system has an involvement in people’s mood…
Rosalind Anderson: The central nervous system is the soul! It really is. It’s how you are. It’s where you are, how you know where you are. How you interpret the world. How the world gets to you… it’s everything… Yes, it’s very clear that there is a great deal of psychological involvement. But we are not capable of measuring it in mice and therefore we don't talk about it. But that is not to suggest it doesn't happen. If you go to one MCS meeting, you know it’s there!!

How do you control your data?
Rosalind Anderson: Each mouse is tested only once; no mouse sees two samples. Therefore all data is based on comparison of how a group of control mice respond to clean air versus how a group of other similarly treated mice respond to polluted air.

Every mouse has a baseline on clean air, so we know he is healthy. If we have a mouse that is not healthy when we start, we stop the experiment, take him out, insert a different mouse and start all over from scratch. We do almost as many controls as we do experimental work. In a control we do the whole experiment without any nasty chemical; we also have this control period at the beginning of every experiment so we are double controlled. We know that our room air is OK, we know that the mice are OK, we know the mice in the test are behaving in one particular way; so when they respond to the sample being tested, we are quite sure it is a response to the sample and not a random event.  The responses we report are in most cases so dramatic that no rational person would reasonably question why these reactions occurred.

Is the sample air diluted?
Rosalind Anderson: Yes, in our usual experiment we are pumping 6 liters of air per minute over the sample, all hour long for the exposure.

Since many laboratories use mice, why are they not getting results like yours?
Rosalind Anderson: Well, you can do three basic kinds of toxicity testing: exposures by the skin, by mouth, and by nose. There is very little inhalation testing because it is more expensive than the other kinds. Many chemicals have been tested by mouth, or in an algae culture, or in fruit flies. Or all of the major ingredients have been tested, but they are tested separately and they are tested 100% pure. Now no manufacturer is using purified materials; they buy the cheapest stuff they can use. The contaminants are generally not specified, and they don't test the mixture. Almost never is a test required of the product itself! And this is incredibly important for example with pesticide or fertilizers.

A fertilizer label tells you it’s 10/20/20 which means its 10% of A, 20% of B and 20% of C. We know what 50% of the ingredients are, but we still have 50% of the ingredients unidentified! That’s how testing goes wrong and labeling goes wrong. People are exposed to the entire mixture present in the commercially sold  product, not the individual components.

And your background is in toxicology?
Rosalind Anderson: Yes. I got a Ph.D. in physiology at Yale University School of Medicine and then worked with Dr. Yves Alarie for three years at the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health. He is a respiratory physiologist and toxicologist. He developed the sensory irritation test we use currently.