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BUAV condemns university duplication of chemical tests on animals

20/02/2013

The BUAV has today raised concerns about the growing trend for universities to duplicate animal tests to re-assess the safety of controversial substances. The BUAV has uncovered recent examples of universities in the EU and USA inappropriately re-testing chemicals and genetically modified (GM) food that have already undergone extensive tests (see examples below).  The testing is of additional concern to the BUAV because it often duplicates animal experiments carried out by the manufacturers for regulatory purposes.

New and existing chemicals have to undergo safety tests in which animals are exposed to high doses of a substance. A substance undergoes several types of these animal tests and if no overriding concerns are found the substance is placed on the market. For controversial substances like GM food and pesticides, scientists based in universities can receive public funding to re-assess the safety of these substances in response to apparent public concern. The BUAV claims that by repeating these already flawed studies, universities are simply adding to the number of wasteful safety studies carried out on innocent animals every year.

The BUAV research shows that these academic studies are often criticised by the regulatory community because they do not follow standard protocols. For example, they may use a different number of animals compared to the standard regulatory tests, use inappropriate routes of administration such as injection or use unrealistically high doses. Furthermore, they may not have been conducted according to good laboratory practice (GLP) or under blind conditions (where the researchers do not know what they are testing to remove bias). Some of the animal tests may be novel, speculative tests looking for specific effects for which there is no established animal ‘model’. The results are often dismissed by the chemical manufacturers and the regulatory authorities for these reasons. 

As a result of the inherent doubts about the validity of all animal tests, the safety of substances such as pesticides, flame retardants and bisphenol A has been debated for decades. The BUAV’s experience is that adding more, inconsistent animal data, generated under different conditions, to the knowledge base on a substance simply compounds the problem. Once a chemical is already on the market, information from well-designed human epidemiological (population) or workplace studies that demonstrates a potential effect in humans carry more weight than additional animal studies but researchers are reluctant to conduct these as they are more expensive and time consuming. 

The BUAV is calling on national authorities to prevent speculative and duplicative animal tests such as these and to insist that university researchers employ non-animal methods such as in vitro tests and human workplace studies to assess genuine concerns about the safety of chemicals instead of animals. Repeating animal tests ad nauseum will not lead to greater human safety.

 

References:

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3. Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Rounder-tolerant genetically modified maize. (2012). Food and Chemical Toxicology.

4. Study linking GM maize to cancer must be taken seriously by regulators. The Guardian, Sep 2012.

5. EFSA Press release 28 November 2012

6.Bisphenol A alters early oogenesis and follicle formation in the fetal ovary of the rhesus monkey. (2012). PNAS; 109(43): 17525-17530.

7. Anxiogenic effects of developmental bisphenol A exposure are associated with gene expression changes in the juvenile rat amygdala and mitigated by soy. (2012). PLOS ONE, 7(9);e43890.

8. FDA rejects call to ban BPA from food packaging. USA Today, April 2012. 

9. Accumulation and endocrine disrupting effects of the flame retardant mixture Firemaster 550 in rats: an exploratory assessment. (2012). J Biochem Molecular Toxicology, 00: 1-13.

10. Chemtura comments on Firemaster 550 flame retardant study. Chemical Watch, Nov 2012. 

11. Triclosan impairs excitation-contraction coupling and Ca2+ dynamics in striated muscle. (2012). PNAS, 109(35): 14158-14163.

12. CTPA: Avoid unrealistic scare stories, cosmetics are safe. Cosmetics Design-Europe, Aug 2012.