Chemicals need to be tested so that they are safe to use. This means that we need scientific information on chemicals to understand how they may affect people and the environment. There are many ways to obtain this data.
Industry must understand the hazards of the chemicals they produce. This way, they can ensure their safe use and manage the potential risks. For many chemicals, information about their impact on health – for example, the potential to cause cancer – or on the environment is still missing. For this reason, new studies on chemical substances need to be conducted.
Encouraging alternative methods
In the EU, the law requires companies to use means other than testing on animals, whenever possible. For example, companies can use tests based on computer models (in silico or QSAR) or tests that use cells or tissues (in vitro). Companies can also use information from already existing studies on similar chemicals to predict the properties of their chemical.
The law also prescribes that companies registering the same chemical must work on making the registration together. They need to share information and test results on their chemical so that there is no need to repeat animal studies. They then need to agree on whether new tests are needed, once all other available data sources have been gone through.
Scientists are developing new test methods with the aim to replace animal tests. However, it is not yet possible to apply alternative methods and approaches in all situations, especially to understand the long-term effects of chemicals on people and the environment – for example, whether certain chemicals cause cancer or impact our ability to reproduce. Therefore, as a last resort, many chemicals are still tested on animals.
Free available tools
There are various tools that companies can use to find available data on their chemical substances. For example, the eChemPortal database can be used to verify whether information on animal tests is already available from other authorities. The QSAR Toolbox is a software application that helps to fill in missing data.
ECHA’s website gives companies, but also interested citizens and organisations, access to a large amount of information on chemicals. This information comes from the registration dossiers that companies need provide to ECHA to be able to market their chemicals in the EU.