EU chemicals policy

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ECVAM, ECETOC and the EU Chemicals Policy

Philip A. Botham

ECVAM’s initiatives in validation have received significant support from the European Centre for Ecotoxicology and Toxicology of Chemicals (ECETOC), especially through the provision of reference chemical data banks, which contain peer-reviewed, high-quality in vivo data on commercially available chemical substances. Chemicals have been selected from these ECETOC data banks for validation studies on alternative methods for skin corrosion and irritation and for eye irritation and, in addition, an ECETOC task force peer-reviewed the selection and classification, on the basis of in vivo data, of chemicals used in the validation of three alternative methods for developmental toxicity. More recently, ECVAM and ECETOC have been pursuing parallel initiatives on the proposed new EU chemicals policy, with the common goals of ensuring that industry and European Commission resources are used to investigate only those chemicals that pose a significant risk to human health and the environment, and that the Policy requires that any testing that is necessary follows the Three Rs principles of reduction, refinement and replacement.
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An Overall Strategy for the Testing of Chemicals for Human Hazard and Risk Assessment under the EU REACH System

Robert Combes, Martin Barratt and Michael Balls

In its White Paper, Strategy for a Future Chemicals Policy, published in 2001, the European Commission (EC) proposed the REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of CHemicals) system to deal with both existing and new chemical substances. This system is based on a top-down approach to toxicity testing, in which the degree of toxicity information required is dictated primarily by production volume (tonnage). If testing is to be based on traditional methods, very large numbers of laboratory animals could be needed in response to the REACH system, causing ethical, scientific and logistical problems that would be incompatible with the time-schedule envisaged for testing. The EC has emphasised the need to minimise animal use, but has failed to produce a comprehensive strategy for doing so. The present document provides an overall scheme for predictive toxicity testing, whereby the non-animal methods identified and discussed in a recent and comprehensive ECVAM document, could be used in a tiered approach to provide a rapid and scientifically justified basis for the risk assessment of chemicals for their toxic effects in humans. The scheme starts with a preliminary risk assessment process (involving available information on hazard and exposure), followed by testing, based on physicochemical properties and (Q)SAR approaches. (Q)SAR analyses are used in conjunction with expert system and biokinetic modelling, and information on metabolism and identification of the principal metabolites in humans. The resulting information is then combined with production levels and patterns of use to assess potential human exposure. The nature and extent of any further testing should be based strictly on the need to fill essential information gaps in order to generate adequate risk assessments, and should rely on non-animal methods, as far as possible. The scheme also includes a feedback loop, so that new information is used to improve the predictivity of computational expert systems. Several recommendations are made, the most important of which is that the European Union (EU) should actively promote the improvement and validation of (Q)SAR models and expert systems, and computer-based methods for biokinetic modelling, since these offer the most realistic and most economical solution to the need to test large numbers of chemicals.
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Status and Prospects of In Vitro Tests in Risk Assessment

Kimmo Louekari

According to the new chemicals policy of the European Union (EU), most chemicals, i.e. the 20,000 chemicals manufactured or imported at 1–10 tons annually, should be tested primarily by using in vitro methods. Also, for other chemicals, the use of in vitro methods is encouraged in the testing strategies given in the draft EU legislation. However, the validation and international acceptance of in vitro tests has been slow. Only recently has the OECD approved four new in vitro test methods, validated by the European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods. An analysis of ten randomly selected risk assessment reports of the EU Existing Chemicals Risk Assessment Programme showed that in vitro studies, for example, on cytotoxicity to different cell cultures, cell transformation, metabolism and skin penetration (a total of 115 studies) were used for the assessments. Key metabolic pathways and mechanisms of toxicity have been elucidated, for some chemicals, by using in vitro methods. On the other hand, the results of in vitro studies were regarded as secondary or unreliable in some cases. For several toxic endpoints, in vitro methods will probably serve as screening tools and for mechanistic studies, while target organ toxicity or physiologically regulated adverse effects caused by long-term exposure are difficult to observe without the use of animal models.
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An Overall Strategy for the Testing of Chemicals for Human Hazard and Risk Assessment under the EU REACH System

Robert Combes, Martin Barratt and Michael Balls

In its White Paper, Strategy for a Future Chemicals Policy, published in 2001, the European Commission (EC) proposed the REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of CHemicals) system to deal with both existing and new chemical substances. This system is based on a top-down approach to toxicity testing, in which the degree of toxicity information required is dictated primarily by production volume (tonnage). If testing is to be based on traditional methods, very large numbers of laboratory animals could be needed in response to the REACH system, causing ethical, scientific and logistical problems that would be incompatible with the time-schedule envisaged for testing. The EC has emphasised the need to minimise animal use, but has failed to produce a comprehensive strategy for doing so. The present document provides an overall scheme for predictive toxicity testing, whereby the non-animal methods identified and discussed in a recent and comprehensive ECVAM document, could be used in a tiered approach to provide a rapid and scientifically justified basis for the risk assessment of chemicals for their toxic effects in humans. The scheme starts with a preliminary risk assessment process (involving available information on hazard and exposure), followed by testing, based on physicochemical properties and (Q)SAR approaches. (Q)SAR analyses are used in conjunction with expert system and biokinetic modelling, and information on metabolism and identification of the principal metabolites in humans. The resulting information is then combined with production levels and patterns of use to assess potential human exposure. The nature and extent of any further testing should be based strictly on the need to fill essential information gaps in order to generate adequate risk assessments, and should rely on non-animal methods, as far as possible. The scheme also includes a feedback loop, so that new information is used to improve the predictivity of computational expert systems. Several recommendations are made, the most important of which is that the European Union (EU) should actively promote the improvement and validation of (Q)SAR models and expert systems, and computer-based methods for biokinetic modelling, since these offer the most realistic and most economical solution to the need to test large numbers of chemicals.
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