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OECD acceptance for alternative test methods pioneered at the Joint Research Centre

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) recently endorsed four toxicity test methods that avoid the use of animals. These alternative methods were validated by the European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods (ECVAM), part of the European Commissions Joint Research Centre (JRC).

OECD acceptance of these methods will lead to their widespread international application, cutting the number of animals used in toxicity experiments by up to 6% in Europe and beyond. Four pioneering tests,Chemicals and products must be adequately tested to identify potential hazards to human and animal health, and to the environment. In response to consumer concerns on safety and quality, and for safe handling of chemicals, the Commission has validated and funded four state-of-the-art in vitro methods to improve the safety both of those who work with chemicals and the public that use them. OECD endorsement means two human health effects, skin corrosion and phototoxicity, can now be internationally assessed in vitro, reducing markedly the use of animals in toxicology testing. It is estimated that 15 000 animals a year are now used in Europe for the evaluation of these two human health effects at a cost of approximately 12 million. Validating in vitro methods could drastically reduce this cost. For example, an in vitro test using a reconstituted human skin model costs half that of an animal test. Three of the tests examine the potential for chemicals to corrode the skin (two tests are based on skin models and one is based on electrical resistance across the skin), while one test investigates the potential for chemicals to induce phototoxicity. These are the first in vitro methods to have undergone full validation under the auspices of ECVAM. Obtaining OECD endorsement,OECD member countries have endorsed new Guidelines for testing the toxicity of chemicals. They include recommendations to allow testing, previously done on animals, to be done only on cell or tissue cultures in the future using the recently approved in vitro Guidelines. The OECD Guidelines for Testing of Chemicals - the leading international standard for safety testing - are continuously reviewed and updated as scientific knowledge advances. The adoption by OECD countries of these in vitro testing methods and their wide international acceptance will further reduce the use of animals and promote improvements in animal welfare. The European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods (ECVAM), part of the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC), developed and validated these alternative methods. ECVAM and OECD have further collaborated to include them in international test guidelines. They include two guidelines dealing with the identification of corrosive chemical substances and mixtures (TG430; TG431), and one guideline dealing with identifying the phototoxicity of such chemicals and mixtures (TG432). Furthermore another test guideline on the dermal absorption of chemicals (TG428) has also resulted from a close OECD/ECVAM collaboration. ECVAM is also actively participating in other related OECD activities, such as the revision of guidance material on the validation and international acceptance of new or updated test methods for hazard assessment. More information may be found at: European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods (ECVAM): http://ecvam.jrc.it,ECVAM Scientific Information Service: http://ecvam-sis.jrc.it For further information, please E-mail: drew.wagner@oecd.org , OECD Environment, Health and Safety Division, Tel: +33-1-45 24 98 44, or the Joint Research Centre, Public Relations, Berta Duane, Tel: +39-0332-789743, E-mail: Berta.duane@cec.eu.int