EU chemical testing agency not doing enough to minimise animal use


The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), responsible for the EU chemicals testing legislation REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals) has been judged by the independent EU Ombudsman to be lacking in appropriate action to ensure that the number of animal tests carried out are minimised.

REACH is one of the largest and most complex pieces of legislation ever drafted in the EU. It involves the review, testing (and re-testing) of all new and existing chemicals on the market since 1981.

Despite the fact that REACH itself promotes the use of alternative methods to animals and states that animal use should be avoided whenever possible and only as a ‘last resort’, millions of animals continue to suffer in painful toxicity tests for new chemical substances and ECHA confirmed this in its own 2011 report – The Use of Alternatives to Testing on Animals for the REACH Regulation – demonstrating that tens of thousands of animals were used in tests that could have potentially been avoided. In its latest report, ECHA also confirmed that at least 4,887 new animal tests have been conducted for REACH since its launch in 2007, with the number of tests more than doubling since 2009, from 1,849 to 4,887 and a three-fold increase in the number of reproductive toxicity tests carried out (which can use almost 1000 animals per test).

Previous estimates of the total number of animals used since REACH was enforced in June 2007 until its final 2018 deadline, range from 13-54 million.

The decision, published only last month, follows a complaint made over two years ago by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) who claimed that ECHA has not been enforcing animal testing rules strictly enough. Specific examples included over 100 skin tests carried out on animals even though validated non-animal methods were available and a similar number of animal tests being carried out without prior approval.

ECHA acknowledged the decision and its duty to review and prohibit animal tests more effectively in future, also agreeing to report failures to uphold the ‘last resort’ rule of REACH regarding animal tests.

Lush Prize welcomes the long-awaited decision, and the success of the complaint by PETA, to ensure that ECHA fulfils its responsibilities to genuinely prevent the suffering of millions of animals under REACH, for the sake of new chemicals testing.