27 April 2016, Chemical Watch hosted a webinar on the alternatives to animal testing in London. Leading scientists took part in the event, including Director of Science at Cruelty Free International Dr. Katy Taylor, Principal Consultant David Andrew and Evaluation director and Scientific Officer at the European Chemicals Agency – Dr. Laurence Hoffstadt. Chemical Watch Managing Director Emma Chynoweth was present as well. The purpose of the meeting was to inform on new regulations and discuss the alternative methods of in vivo tests, and in less than two hours some encouraging findings were pinpointed.
REACH defines animal testing as a ‘last resort’ option to ensure the safety of ingredients.
REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) is a European Union regulation and addresses the production and use of chemical substances, and their potential impact on both human health and the environment.
The speakers started by pointing out several scary facts. They said that a staggering amount of animals are tested annually on a global scale, the number exceeding 115 million, of which 10% occurs in Europe. In fact, they estimated that about 11.5 million animals were tested in Europe in the year of 2011.
During the webinar, a few reasons were provided against the use of animals in testing and research. Aside from the cost and public ethical objections – over 60% of people disapproved of the idea of using animals for scientific purposes – they also took into consideration regulatory requirements, animal welfare and a few scientific issues.
They pointed out that, for example, irritation tests done on rabbit skin does not show with absolute precision the reactions that human skin would trigger when it comes into contact with a given cosmetic product. In truth, the tests can only predict about 60% of human skin’s reactions. In comparison, some improved alternatives have been claimed to predict human skin reactions with 76% accuracy. What this shows is that “in a lot of cases the alternatives are superior to the animal tests,” said Dr Katy Taylor.
Regulation now approves more ‘in-vitro tests’, the so called: ‘test tube experiments’ , reducing the need to do ‘ in-vivo tests’; tests on animals, humans or plants.
One thing we need to remember from the webinar is that REACH, an EU regulatory body, is doing its best to decrease the use of animals in testing. Its intention is to both improve the ability of the chemical industry in EU to compete on the market and protect the environment and human health from chemical exposure. Another goal of REACH is to cut down on animal tests by developing alternative methods.
Recently, REACH gave priority to the use of animal testing alternatives by making amendments in their texts. So far updates have been approved for acute toxicity, eye damage, and skin corrosion. The good news: It is now possible to use in vitro methods to replace in vivo tests. The former is very efficient and can convey the same information as animal testing does. Hence, in vivo testing is no longer a requirement for the abovementioned approaches and it should be performed as a last resort. For instance, when it comes to skin irritation/corrosion and eye damage/irritation, it is now a rule that animal tests should only be carried out if the in vitro method does not provide enough details necessary to draw a right conclusion. And this is how, little by little, non-animal test methods will be made the default.
Here is what REACH says about animal testing: “In particular for human toxicity, information shall be generated whenever possible by means other than vertebrate animal tests, through the use of alternative methods, for example, in vitro methods or qualitative or quantitative structure-activity relationship models or from information from structurally related substances (grouping or read-across).” Also, Article 25.1 states the following: “In order to avoid animal testing, testing on vertebrate animals for the purposes of this Regulation shall be undertaken only as a last resort.”
In addition, the European Union claims that animal welfare is of great importance and that, “Member States shall ensure that, wherever possible, a scientifically satisfactory method or testing strategy, not entailing the use of live animals, shall be used instead of a procedure,” according to Article 4. Furthermore, Article 13 states that: “Without prejudice to national legislation prohibiting certain types of methods, Member States shall ensure that a procedure is not carried out if another method or testing strategy for obtaining the result sought, not entailing the use of a live animal, is recognised under the legislation of the Union.“
For more information, here is a link to a guide called “How to avoid new animal tests in your 2018 REACH registration”
Another step towards a cruelty-free world
At SULA NYC we are quite excited about the changes. We think this is great news. A lot has been done to change the way in which animals have been treated in the past decades, yet we realize we are only halfway there, so we need to act together and stand for the cause. The FDA does not regulate cosmetics as cosmetics are defined as ‘appearance’ products, not as ‘healing’ products. Recently we learned about a US based non profit organization IVVS (www.iivs.org) This ‘Institute for In Vitro Sciences, Inc.’ is a non-profit research and testing laboratory dedicated to the advancement of in vitro (non-animal) methods worldwide. Founded in 1997, IIVS has worked with industry and government agencies to implement in vitro testing strategies that limit animal use while supplying key information for product safety and efficacy decisions. So if you need testing programs, consider in vitro tests or other non-animal methods to answer specific product safety and efficacy questions.
We follow REACH and are delighted with the amendments that the EU recently made. We are against animal testing. In case countries demand cosmetic testing for safety aspects we believe that in vitro or alternative non-animal testing is the right thing to do and so far the best way to go. The organic and natural ingredients we use are effective, and absolutely non-toxic. They have been time tested for almost a century and scientifically well researched and proven effective.