International Body Approves Landmark Nonanimal Test
After more than a decade of scientific research and lobbying by animal protection groups, the world will soon see a dramatic reduction in the use of the Draize skin test. The test is conducted by smearing potentially harmful materials onto rabbits’ shaved skin.
In April, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the international body that coordinates testing programs and guidelines from various countries, made history by approving the first complete replacement for the Draize skin test. The guideline was adopted in July and it is now available for use by companies and governments worldwide.
The International Council for Animal Protection in OECD Programmes (ICAPO) provided scientific expertise that helped create the new guideline and ensure its acceptance. As secretariat of ICAPO, PCRM’s work has increased the visibility and impact of ICAPO’s activities at the OECD. That has translated into direct improvements in the lives of animals in laboratories, and reductions in the numbers of animals used in testing.
“The science of safety testing has come a long way since the 1940s,” says PCRM toxicologist Kristie Sullivan, M.P.H., who is also an ICAPO representative. “Taking animals out of the equation will reap dividends for industry and consumers in the form of faster tests and safer products.”
Manufacturers in Japan, the United States, and France produce the nonanimal methods—called Reconstructed Human Epidermis models—from human skin in laboratories. The human skin is obtained from excess left from plastic and other surgeries and “grown” into a 3-D layer nearly identical to human skin. It can be used to detect materials that are irritating or corrosive.
This method can now be used in place of the rabbit method for most chemicals and products and is in the process of being adopted in Europe, Japan, and the United States. Many other nations also use OECD test guidelines, which makes OECD approval of this new method a revolutionary step.
The OECD also approved a revision to a short-term test conducted with birds that could reduce the numbers of birds used by 90 percent, and a strategy to reduce the use of fish in some short-term tests by 65 percent.