September 16, 2009
4.5 Million Animals to Be Spared
No more duplicative chemical toxicity testsHSI today welcomed a response from the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) to a request for clarification regarding safety testing requirements under the EU’s REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals) regulation, which promises to spare approximately 4.5 million animals from suffering and death in chemical-poisoning tests.
Double the suffering
Last month, a coalition of animal protection organizations including HSI wrote to ECHA raising concerns about the risk of companies' conducting duplicative animal tests for some types of toxicity when registering their chemicals under REACH. Our concerns arose due to the cumulative nature of the way information requirements are listed within REACH, according to which chemicals are required to undergo progressively more animal testing as their production volume increases.
In particular, there was a danger that companies would conduct "screening" tests for reproductive and general toxicity (which still consume dozens to hundreds of animals per chemical), and would later be required to conduct more comprehensive tests for these same effects. The language within REACH and its guidance has been ambiguous on this point.
Clarification brings good news
However, ECHA today issued a press statement [PDF] clarifying that animal tests need not be conducted if similar, more comprehensive tests are going to be proposed. Companies registering chemicals that are produced in quantities of 100 tonnes or more can therefore fulfil initial registration requirements without performing the screening tests if they are proposing to do more comprehensive tests later in the process.
We estimate, based on ECHA’s own figures, that 6,000 chemicals may fall under the relevant information requirements, and that this clarification alone has the potential to save the lives of 4.5 million animals.
“We are delighted that ECHA has responded so promptly and positively to our request and helped prevent potential duplicative testing using more than 4 million animals,” says Troy Seidle, HSI’s director for research and toxicology. “We still have other concerns regarding REACH and its implementation, but this common sense approach is a good start.”
The task at hand now is to make sure companies abide by this clear instruction and do not conduct duplicative testing on qualifying chemicals.