Spec. Issue 2006 - Article Summary

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Strategy for minimising the use of animal testing as part of REACH

Uwe Lahl
Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Reactor Safety, Bonn, Germany
This paper outlines the current state of decision-making in the reform of EU chemicals law. REACH will mean that we will acquire extensive data on the properties of chemicals and existing exposures. This will make it possible to reduce the negative effects they have on humans and the environment. Although consumer protection as well as occupational health and safety are at the centre of the public discussion, the implications for environmental protection should not be neglected. Many dangerous environmental chemicals (e.g. endocrine-disrupting substances) contribute to the fact that individual animal populations are in decline regionally and even globally. REACH is thus also needed to better protect wildlife from environmental chemicals. The aim to protect wildlife is at odds with the fact that it is not always possible to ascertain the risks associated with these chemicals without carrying out tests on animals. However, the Commission’s proposal for a regulation identifies all the endeavours being made to limit the number of animal tests. OSOR will prevent duplicate or even multiple tests on animals. The use of historical data will also be permitted, provided that they are still valid. Alternative methods to replace animal testing (particularly in vitro methods) will also be used wherever available. Opening up risk analysis to methods that analyse structure/activity relationships (in silico methods, SAR, QSAR) creates further prospects for reducing the extent of animal testing in the medium term. Finally, the time between now and the date REACH enters into force is a clearly defined time frame within which current research into alternative methods can be advanced to a state that will allow additional possibilities for replacing animal testing to be developed.

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