The Lethal Dose (LD) Test - (LD-50 test)

Note: Information from this article gathered from:

The lethal dose (or LD) test measures the amount of a toxic substance that will, in a single dose, kill a certain percentage of animals in a test group. "To avoid interference with results," no painkillers are administered. Each year, about five million dogs, rabbits, rats, monkeys, and other animals die in lethal dose tests performed in the United States.(1)

Cosmetics and household product tests on animals are not required by law. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires only that each ingredient in a cosmetic product be "adequately substantiated for safety" prior to marketing, or the product must carry a warning on the label that its safety has not been determined. The FDA does not have the authority to require any particular product test, so contrary to what companies that use lethal dose tests say, the FDA does not require the test.

How the Test is Given

During a lethal dose test, the experimental substance is forced into the animals' throats or is pumped into their stomachs by a tube, sometimes causing death by stomach rupture or from the sheer bulk of the chemical dosage. Substances also are injected under the skin, into a vein, or into the peritoneal lining of the abdomen; they are also often applied to the eyes, rectum, or vagina, or forcibly inhaled through a gas mask.

Not an Accurate Test

The lethal dose test does not accurately measure human health hazards and is very crude and imprecise. Lethal dose test results can be affected by the age and sex of the animals tested, their housing and nutritional conditions, temperature, time of day and year, and the exact method used to administer the substance.(2) Different species react differently to substances, and reactions between individuals of the same species can also vary greatly. For example, nicotine is lethal to humans at 0.9mg/kg, but lethal dose values of nicotine in dogs are a staggering 9.2mg/kg; in pigeons, 75mg/kg; and in rats, 53mg/kg.

Alternatives Exist

In 1981, eminent scientists and toxicology experts met in Uppsala, Sweden, to discuss this "near useless" test. Since then, the lethal dose test has come under increasing fire for its cruel effects and inaccuracy. Computer modeling and cell and tissue culture techniques are among the available non-animal methods, as is the Ames test, which uses salmonella bacteria to determine toxicity.

For more information on alternatives to animal tests, select here.

What Can Be Done

According to Robert Osterberg of the FDA, "Bureaucrats need an atom bomb to move them." In response to public pressure, some laboratories have begun reducing the number of animals used in revised lethal dose or "limit" tests, but the tests remain cruel and inaccurate. As with the notorious eye irritancy tests, it will take pressure from concerned consumers and animal advocates to move cosmetics companies into the world of progressive science. The lethal dose test will meet its overdue demise when enough consumers, legislators, and ethical scientists demand an end to its use.

To find out how to contact those in the government, select here

Additional Links

For more on product testing in general, select here

For more on animal testing (vivisection) in general, select here

For a complete list of companies that DO test on animals, select here

For a complete list of companies that DO NOT test on animals, select here

For a fact sheet on charities and animal testing, select here

For a complete list of charities that DO test on animals, select here

For a complete list of charities that DO NOT test on animals, select here

For information on alternatives to animal testing, select here


  1. "Classical LD50 Acute Toxicity Test," Humane Society of the United States, 1984.
  2. Pratt, Dallas, M.D., Alternatives to Pain In Experiments On Animals, 1980, p. 206.
For any additional questions and or concerns,
please contact:

GEARI home -