National Anti-vivisection Society


National Antivisection Society

Non-animal chemical testing in Europe reviewed

Posted: 12 June 2014

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has published its latest report into progress with non-animal alternatives used under the REACH regulations. The regulations, which were the subject of fierce debate in the European Parliament, require the registration and safety testing of most chemicals available in the European Union.

The latest report, published every three years for the European Commission, shows an increase in the use of non-animal testing methods. The number of such tests used in relation to skin and eye irritation, and skin corrosion, now total 1410, up from 442 on the 2011 figure.

The REACH regulations explicitly state that using animals to test substances must be a last resort, and prior approval for such tests is required. The latest report from ECHA showed that 293 experiments were conducted on animals without permission being sought. The details of these unauthorised tests have now been passed to relevant Member States for further action to be considered.

Other methods employed to reduce the need for animal testing include data sharing between companies testing the same substance, ‘read-across’ where information from similar substances is used and computer modelling.

The latest statistical report from the EU showed that more than 1 million animals were used in toxicological research in 2011, accounting for almost one in ten of animal experiments, although it’s impossible to know how many of these animals were tested on as a direct result of REACH.

While it is encouraging to see that modest progress is being made, a separate report on the REACH regulations found a lack of acceptance of alternative methods is one of the reasons that the regulating agency does not reject proposals to test chemicals on animals. In addition to the failure to promote alternatives proposed by third parties, the report identified a failure on the part of applicants to do all they can to avoid animal testing.

There is clearly still much work to do in advancing non-animal methods, and we will be hoping for greater progress to have been made when the next report is published in 2017.

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