EU pushes for alternatives to animal testing

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Animal testing In vitro

European authorities have published a report outlining various
alternative methods to animal testing of cosmetic products. The
move follows a European Commission ban imposed last year that
prevents the testing of finished cosmetic products on animals and
that will eventually see a similar ban on the testing of all
cosmetics ingredients.

But implementing the ban on ingredients testing is easier said than done, which is where the European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods (ECVAM) has stepped in.

The ban on the testing of finished cosmetics products was implemented as of 11 September 2004. At the same time the Commission said that a similar ban on the testing of cosmetics ingredients would also be introduced as soon as feasible alternative testing could be found.

In response to this challenge the Commission formed a working group made up of stakeholder representatives from industry, animal welfare and consumer associations and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Their task is to discover adequate alternatives to ingredients testing in an effort to draw up a timetable specifying exactly when a total ban can be phased in.

The subsequent report​ into the steps made towards this goal highlight that 'good progress' has been made towards developing alternative methods to predict basal cytotoxicity - a test method to determine the levels of toxicity in humans.

Subsequently the report says that headway has been made towards creating tests using human cell cultures instead of animals, as well as eight well-advanced in vitro tests that are capable of predicting basal cytotoxicity. The experts believe that alternative testing could be established in between two and four years with these methods.

"However, for replacing the whole animal test, other parameters, such as metabolism, toxicokinetics, and toxicity to potentially sensitive target organs, must be taken into account,"​ the report says.

Another proposal for the an Integrated Project -A-Cute-Tox is also being funded under the EU's Sixth Framework Programme. This study, which will strongly influence the complete replacement of animal testing for human oral toxicity, is attempting to develop a simple alternative to invitro testing to replace current animal tests.

The report says that the outcome of the current work is not likely to produce a viable alternative for the next ten years, which means that a total ban on animal testing within the industry is not likely before 2015.

ECVAM is also funding validation studies into alternatives for eye and skin irritation, where progress towards animal testing alternatives are expected to be found much sooner.

Alternatives to skin irritation testing may result in three validated alternatives that could be available before 2008, the report says.

However, the report also highlights that a bottleneck towards progress is expected in the development of in vitro testing strategies for systematic toxicity. This field concentrates on the areas of acute toxicity, genotoxicity and mutagenicity.

An even bigger bottleneck is expected in the areas of repeated dose toxicity, subacute and subchronic toxicity, carcinogenicity, and reproductive and developmental toxicity. Research into these areas is described in the report as being 'ongoing'.

"The necessity to have funds and human resources at the research and development level is one of the major bottlenecks for obtaining alternative methods,"​ the report states. "However, good co-ordination and prioritisation in research and in the optimisation of alternative methods that are able to predict risks to human health, are also crucial,"​ it adds.

Related topics Formulation & Science

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