REACH: A Glimmer of Hope?

Posted by on August 10, 2011 | Permalink

Puppy in a cage

© iStockPhoto / DanBrandenburg

We blogged a couple of weeks ago about the world’s largest chemical testing programme – Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) – which also happens to be the world’s largest animal killing programme. A recent development has given us hope that the death toll can be cut, and we’ve taken action to try to ensure that happens as soon as possible.

REACH is an EU law that requires companies to submit “safety” data for chemicals that are made or imported into Europe. These data include results from the testing of chemicals on animals, and experts agree that millions of animals – perhaps tens of millions of animals – will die over the next few years as a result. Up to 90 percent of the animals expected to be used for REACH will be used in reproductive toxicity tests. These tests can use up to 2,600 animals for every single chemical tested. A refined version of the current test that could use less than half the number of animals has recently been approved at a global level – in fact, scientists from PETA US deserve a lot of the credit for getting the method adopted.

By law, companies can’t perform the reproductive toxicity test for REACH unless they have permission from the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), which runs REACH. We’ve written to the ECHA to demand that the agency refuse to approve any use of the old test until the new one has been properly integrated into REACH. We’ve also sought an urgent meeting with agency officials to address the desperately poor uptake of alternatives to animal tests under REACH. We’ll keep you informed of any developments.