EU Science Hub

Reflections on the progress towards non-animal methods for acute toxicity testing of chemicals

Abstract: 
The acute toxicity ‘six-pack’ is a suite of tests for hazard identification and risk assessment, primarily conducted for the classification and labelling of industrial chemicals and agrochemicals. The ‘six-pack’ is designed to provide information on health hazards likely to arise from short-term exposure to chemicals via inhalation, oral and dermal routes, including the potential for eye and skin irritation/corrosion and skin sensitization. The component tests of the ‘six-pack’ currently rely heavily on the use of experimental animals. In 2017, the UK National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs), together with the European Union Reference Laboratory for Alternatives to Animal Testing (EURL-ECVAM), and the US National Toxicology Program (NTP) Centre for the Evaluation of Alternative Methods (NICEATM) held a workshop entitled ‘Towards Global Elimination of the Acute Toxicity ‘Six-Pack’’ to explore opportunities to use alternative (non-animal) methods for hazard identification and classification without compromising human or environmental safety. The Workshop included scientists from regulatory agencies and industrial organisations worldwide, and sought to gain a more detailed understanding of the barriers to the adoption of suitable animal-free alternatives at an international level. Among the issues addressed were: the recurring theme of validation and scientific credibility, as well as the need for international standards, an understanding of the limitations of each new/alternative method and characterisation against the variability of current animal methods. The practicality and cost of new tests was also an important consideration. However, the need for mutual acceptance, and global harmonization of requirements were thought to be the major hurdle to overcome to realise a vision of the eventual complete elimination of the current, animal test-based, acute toxicity ‘six-pack’.