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New International Testing Guidelines Will Save Animals

New product-testing procedures adopted by a key international organization will save thousands of animals a year from a painful death. At a recent meeting in Paris, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development approved several new or revised test guidelines that will replace animals or reduce the number killed in common toxicity tests. These guidelines will become the standard for companies in many countries to follow.

rabbitPCRM scientists have held the secretariat position of the International Council on Animal Protection in Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Programmes (ICAPO) since 2006, and PCRM’s work has increased the visibility and impact of ICAPO’s activities at the OECD. That has translated into direct improvements in the lives of animals in laboratories.

As Secretariat, PCRM is responsible for acting as a direct liaison between OECD officials and the animal protection groups that make up ICAPO. These groups mirror OECD member countries geographically, and all share PCRM’s mission to replace the use of animals in toxicity testing. While ICAPO cannot officially vote, ICAPO provides expert advice to OECD member countries on alternatives to and the protection of animals in laboratories.

ICAPO has the ability to comment on draft test guidelines and other documents related to toxicity testing, both with animals and with new alternative methods, and to nominate scientific experts to attend numerous meetings on specific issues throughout the year.

Once a year, the Test Guidelines Programme meets to approve draft test guidelines and other documents. PCRM toxicologist Kristie Sullivan, M.P.H., attended with two other ICAPO member representatives and reports that this meeting was one of the most promising ever for animals in laboratories.

For the assessment of severe eye irritation, two in vitro (test tube) guidelines were approved that can be used to screen out chemicals most harmful to the eyes, sparing rabbits from the notorious Draize test, which involves applying a substance to an animal’s eye. The delegates also approved two other in vitro test guidelines: one for measuring a chemical’s potential to damage a cell’s genetic material and one for measuring a chemical’s potential to mimic estrogen activity. These tests are performed using human cell lines.

In addition, the delegates approved a new acute inhalation test guideline that will kill 55 to 85 percent fewer animals overall, or between 22 and 34 per test, than the current test guideline. “While PCRM is pushing hard for the validation of a nonanimal approach to inhalation toxicity assessment, in the meantime, this new guideline could save thousands of animals each year from a painful death,” Ms. Sullivan says.

More nonanimal test guidelines are in the work plan for the next few years, as the delegates agreed to work to approve nine more in vitro tests for skin irritation, genotoxicity, carcinogenicity screening, and endocrine disruption.

The new test guidelines are set to be published in early fall 2009, after ratification by the OECD Council. The OECD has also just published an updated table of work plan items related to animal welfare, which can be viewed on its public website:

Kristie Sullivan, M.P.H.
Kristie Sullivan, M.P.H.

PCRM Online, June 2009

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