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Survey carried out by BUAV shows that 50,000 animals could be saved from chemical tests under REACH

25/04/2013

The BUAV will today present the conclusions of a survey it has conducted on the results from animal tests carried out on chemicals registered under new EU legislation REACH. The BUAV survey, which was carried out last year, found that where a chemical substance had the profile of ‘low toxicity in a high quality dataset’, there was no added value to conducting the 90-day animal test. The BUAV argues therefore that in future, other chemicals fitting this profile (an estimated 15% of chemicals) should not have to undergo the 90-day test. 

The BUAV presentation will take place at the Member State Committee at the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) in Helsinki. This committee makes decisions on the need for new 90-day animal tests and will soon be responsible for making decisions on a new batch of substances that will be registered by June 2013. The 90-day test uses at least 100 animals (adult rats) per chemical substance. If 15% of the tests in this new batch do not need to be conducted this could save 50,000 animals and collectively save the industry 50 million Euros!

The BUAV survey follows an earlier one carried out by the UK Authorities which also showed that substances with low toxicity in short term animal tests are unlikely - if at all - to show any toxic effects in long term tests. These results, together with those of the BUAV, were presented to the UK Hazardous Substances Advisory Committee in December 2012.  

Under REACH, companies have to conduct both a 28-day and a 90-day test if alternative approaches cannot be found. The legal text already says that a 90-day test can be carried out instead of a 28-day test, if neither test has yet been done. However, in instances where only a 28-day test has been done, companies may have to propose to repeat it for 90 days. This is quite likely to happen since REACH requirements are stricter than previous chemicals legislation. The BUAV survey found that the test results for substances with this low toxicity profile was no different in the 90-day test to the 28-day test, providing compelling evidence that in these circumstances a 90-day test should not be requested by the Agency. 28-day and 90-day tests involve daily force-feeding rats (by a tube down the throat) high doses of the chemical substance. This procedure, which in itself is very stressful, is repeated every day for up to 90 days and can result in injury or death from the tube being incorrectly inserted.

The BUAV hopes that the Agency will take on board the results of this second survey. In the meantime, the conclusions will be submitted for publication and wider dissemination.