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November 6, 2012

HSI Calls for Overhaul of REACH Data Requirements to Cut Needless Animal Testing

Humane Society International/Europe

  • Rats squeezed into full-body restraint tubes during an inhalation toxicity test. NIEHS

  • Rabbit "lethal dose" skin tests cause needless suffering. Photobucket

  • Reproductive and developmental toxicity studies consume between 1,300 and 2,600 mother and baby rats per chemical tested. Photobucket

Humane Society International has issued an urgent call for the European Commission to revise information (testing) requirements prescribed under its chemicals law "REACH" (short for Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals) to substantially reduce animal testing while maintaining the same high level of regulatory scrutiny. Earlier this year, EU countries adopted a variety of alternative testing strategies devised by HSI under new legislation for biocidal products (non-food pesticides), leading to the largest-ever reduction in animal testing requirements in a regulated product sector.

REACH contains a commmittment that animal testing will only be carried out as "a last resort" and a legal requriement for tests to be regularly reviewed and updated to reduce animal testing. Yet the truth is that needless animal tests are being carried out every day under REACH, and in nearly six years since the legislation came into force, the EU has done nothing to keep REACH testing requirements up to date with scientific progress on alternatives. HSI’s proposals have already been accepted by regulators responsible for ensuring the safety of pesticides and biocidal products, so there is absolutely no excuse for further delay by the Commission in updating testing requirements for chemicals under REACH.

In April, HSI submitted technical proposals to the European Commission seeking assurance that, in line with the REACH legal text, information requirements would be updated “as soon as possible” to reflect scientific progress on alternatives. If animal test reductions achieved in the biocides sector are mirrored in REACH, millions of animals could be spared. Bringing REACH test requirements in line with those of other EU chemical sectors would also achieve better regulatory harmonsiation.

Sign HSI's petition to the European Commission

HSI’s proposals include a test regime that would reduce the number of chemicals requiring acute toxicity testing via two routes of exposure. Acute toxicity tests are used to provide "lethal dose 50 percent" (LD50) values for dermal and respiratory poisoning. They typically require death as an endpoint, and as such are among the most severe regulatory tests that can be legally authorised. Most chemicals are tested to establish an oral LD50 value, but REACH goes further by requiring additional acute testing by the dermal or inhalation route. However, published research by HSI and others has demonstrated that hazard classifications based on dermal acute toxicity data are almost never more sensitive than those based on oral data, rendering dermal acute toxicity data needlessly redundant for 99 percent of chemials.

Reviewing test requirements in laws and regulations, looking for any and all opportunities to replace animal tests or minimise suffering, is painstaking work. HSI’s experts specialise in this kind of detailed analysis, and it gets results—sparing millions of rabbits and other animals from needless suffering.

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