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REACH legislation spells catch 22 over animal testing

By Simon Pitman , 20-Jan-2009
Last updated on 20-Jan-2009 at 14:23 GMT2009-01-20T14:23:25Z

The introduction of the REACH legislation has created a dilemma for cosmetic ingredients manufacturers over the issue of animal testing.

On the one hand the Cosmetics Directive now clearly outlaws any unnecessary testing of cosmetics ingredients on animals. At the same time, the new REACH legislation is demanding an even more rigorous assessment of a chemical's safety.

“With REACH there is now a requirement to perform a comprehensive assessment of the risks to human health and environmental safety,” said Iain Moore, product and quality assurance manager at UK-based cosmetic ingredient manufacturer Croda.

Animal testing data to be shared

Regarding animal testing, REACH and the Cosmetics Directive agree that all animal testing data used in the development of a cosmetics ingredient is shared in order to minimise the future use of animal testing.

However, under REACH if formulators do not have the required data for any formulation they are developing, they must make a submission to the European Chemical Agency (ECHA), based in Helsinki, Finland, with a request to perform the missing tests.

One of the problems, is that for many of these tests suitable alternatives to animal testing are yet to be fully developed and approved by the European Union authorities.

In addition, even if the ECHA grants a license to carry them out, they are officially still outlawed by the Cosmetics Directive.

As Moore points out this creates a ‘catch-22’ situation for formulators and a huge grey area that leads to confusion over which is the best course of action to take.

Grey areas in both sets of legislation

As Moore points out the dilemma is further exacerbated by the potential differently interpret the two sets of legislation.

“Potentially it is not that black and white, as some interpretations of the Cosmetics Directive allow for animal testing if it is for other regulatory purposes,” he said.

“The authorities are aware of this dilemma but it is driven by politics and is therefore not going to change. The recent revision of the Cosmetics Directive could have clarified this but nothing was done.”

With a growing number of cosmetic ingredients manufacturers forbidding the use of any substance that has been tested on animals to be included in the their formulations, Moore believes that this will only spell further problems for the future.