New Approved Tests to Spare More Than 250,000 Animals in European Union
The European Union has announced that nonanimal methods will likely soon replace rabbits for testing chemicals that could be irritating to the skin or eye. Another new method will halve the number of mice used in skin allergen testing. These advances will save almost 20,000 rabbits every year and a total of about 240,000 mice.
Under EU law, animal tests for drugs, chemicals, and personal products cannot be used if an alternative non-animal method has been validated by the Scientific Advisory Committee of the European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods (ECVAM) and implemented by the European Commission. This April, ECVAM approved five tests that obviate the use of rabbits and mice for certain assessments.
Two of the new tests use laboratory-grown human skin to predict whether chemicals could irritate the skin. These methods are much more reliable than the Draize skin irritation test, in which chemicals are tested on the skin of rabbits. Two other tests use animal tissues obtained from slaughterhouses rather than live rabbits to assess the severity of eye irritants. Finally, half of the mice to be used in skin allergen testing under new EU chemicals legislation will be saved by a new reduction procedure.
The EU is far ahead of ECVAM’s U.S. counterpart, the Interagency Coordinating Committee for the Validation of Alternative Methods (ICCVAM), a government agency charged with assessing alternative methods for U.S. agencies. ECVAM has approved more than 23 methods, while ICCVAM has approved only six—and only two of those apply to drug testing.