Testing – another way


The EU deadline for a full marketing ban on animal-tested cosmetic products is approaching. While experts debate whether alternative in vitro and in vivo methods will be ready in time, many believe that in the long run alternatives to animal testing, which are able to take human variation into account, will help develop our understanding of why certain ingredients provoke certain reactions

As the European Union (EU) deadline for a full marketing ban on animal-tested cosmetic products looms ever closer there are doubts within the scientific community that full, alternative methods will be developed on time. MJ Deschamps reports

The EU’s Cosmetics Directive ordered the phasing out of animal testing in personal and beauty products in September 2004 when a ban on animal testing of finished cosmetic products first came into force. Since March 2009 a ban on the marketing of most cosmetic products and their ingredients, which have been tested on animals, has also been in place in the EU. However, the deadline for a full marketing ban has been pushed back to March 2013 due to the difficulty of developing tests to identify the five most complex human health effects, such as repeated dose toxicity, skin sensitisation, carcinogenicity, reproductive toxicity and toxicokinetics. While full replacement alternative methods are currently available for basic tests such as skin corrosivity and irritation, dermal absorption and phototoxicity, so far those for acute toxicity, eye irritation and mutagenicity/genotoxicity are only covered by partial replacement methods.

According to the UK’s National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs), the most progress in alternative methods to date relates to tests for predicting discrete effects induced by chemicals over a relatively short period such as skin and eye irritation. For example, says NC3Rs programme manager Dr Stuart Creton, 3D skin models can assess the skin irritation potential of many substances and partial replacements are available for eye irritation such as using ex-vivo eye tissues from cows or chickens slaughtered for food production purposes.

In terms of alternatives for the five endpoints of the 2013 marketing ban, says Creton, of most promise are alternatives for skin sensitisation testing, where a range of assays examining different stages in the biological pathway of skin sensitisation have been developed. It is predicted, however, that the industry will have to wait until 2017-2019 to use a combination of these assays to make risk assessment decisions on skin sensitisation.

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