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ECEAE disappointed in REACH appeal ruling on animal test case

20/06/2013

The European Coalition to End Animal Experiments (ECEAE), for which the BUAV is Secretariat, has expressed its disappointment at a  decision by the Board of Appeal on an animal test case at the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). 

The ECEAE was granted leave to intervene in the case last year due to its recognised experience with animal testing and REACH. It supported the case made by the Dow Chemical Company, which was appealing a decision made by ECHA forcing the company to conduct a prenatal developmental toxicity test on rats for one of its substances. 

The substance is dipropylene glycol methyl ether acetate (DPMA) and is used as a solvent. The experiment would involve force feeding high doses of the solvent to pregnant rats and then killing them and their unborn babies the  day before they are due to give birth. Dow calculates that nearly 1,500 animals would be involved. 

Dow  did not want to conduct the test because it has enough evidence from similar, non-toxic substances. Its submission to the ECHA included this ‘read across’ approach where the information gap in question is filled by ‘reading across’ from information for similar substances instead of doing another animal test. The approach was accepted for DPMA by a key international body called the OECD, of which most European countries are a member.

This week, the Board of Appeal announced its decision and rejected the claims made by Dow that the ECHA acted unlawfully in rejecting the read across approach. The Board said that the Agency has a wide discretion in whether it can accept adaptations to avoid testing. As a consequence the Board did not feel ECHA had acted inappropriately and avoided ruling on the scientific acceptability of the read across approach presented by Dow.

BUAV Senior Scientific Adviser, Dr Katy Taylor representing the ECEAE states:We are very disappointed by the Board of Appeal’s decision. In our view and that of Dow, ECHA set the bar for acceptance of read across unacceptably high. If ECHA continue to take this overly conservative approach, the ability of companies to use read across to avoid new animal tests will be severely restricted. It is a real shame that the Board did not advise ECHA about the soundness of their scientific approach.