Did you know that not a single U.S. medical school (that’s 0 percent, everyone)—including Ivy League schools like Harvard, Yale, and Stanford—requires medical students to cut up dead animals?!

It’s safe to assume that you don’t have to dissect a frog, pig, or any other animal to become a brilliant doctor, and studies even suggest that exposing young people to animal dissection as “science” can discourage some students from pursuing careers in the sciences—exactly the opposite of its intended goal.

We know that dissecting animals has no educational value, but how often do we consider the harmful physical effects on humans of exposure to the chemicals used to preserve animals?

Whether it’s direct contact in the classroom or lingering traces in the school’s hallways, exposure to toxic chemicals is no joke. Do you know what dangers lurk in those sad, smelly bags and buckets filled with dead animals?

The Chemicals

Animals used for classroom dissection are preserved and shipped in sketchy-sounding chemicals, such as formaldehyde, Carosafe, and Bio-Fresh. If you’re wondering, “WTF are those?!”—you aren’t alone. Teachers may fail to explain fully what these chemicals are and the hazards they present when brought into the classroom. Yikes!

Formaldehyde is used as a preservative and is also found in cigarette smoke—it’s classified as a human carcinogen, and even short-term exposure to it can be fatal.

Dead animals shipped in Carosafe—a preservative and holding solution—are initially preserved in formaldehyde, so traces of it are present. Similarly, Bio-Fresh is a holding solution for animals initially preserved in formaldehyde, so exposure to it is reduced but not eliminated.

Long story short: Humans are inevitably exposed to formaldehyde (which isn’t entirely removed through washing) when they come into contact with animals who have been preserved in it.

The Hazards

We know that formaldehyde is harmful and that exposure to it can cause all sorts of ailments, such as cancer and respiratory distress. Teachers would never intentionally expose themselves and their students to this hazard, but formaldehyde-preserved animals are purchased for and shipped to schools across the U.S. for dissection. Hmmm … .

Think about it: When students cut up dead animals, they usually wear personal protective equipment such as gloves, chemical splash goggles, and aprons to protect themselves from formaldehyde exposure, right? Even with these skin-protecting safeguards in place, there’s still a chance of accidentally inhaling chemicals that are known to make people sick! Why would schools choose dissection—aka “harming animals and humans” when they could simply choose humane alternatives that they could use over and over?

You Can Help!

Pledge never to dissect animals. Most of the time, just asking your teacher for an alternative assignment is all it takes. If your teacher isn’t helping you out, check out your other options.

And share information with your friends about your reasons for choosing humane alternatives instead.