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European consumer’s concerns and demands are the primary focus for our Institute. It provides support for policies related to health and consumer protection. The Institute for Health and Consumer Protection (IHCP), located in Ispra, Italy, is one of the seven scientific institutes of the
Alternatives to animal testing
ECVAM Testing consumer products for potentially harmful side effects of chemical ingredients is important for the protection of both the consumer and those involved in the manufacturing process. Laboratory animals have been widely used in the past for testing but for many years the European Union has promoted the development of alternative techniques to eliminate or minimise the use of animals. This is an increasingly important issue as European legislation on cosmetics is gradually introducing a ban on the marketing of cosmetics with ingredients tested on animals. New legislation such as the European Regulation on Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals (REACH) is also encouraging the use of alternative methods and the avoidance of duplicating tests. This has created incentives for the development of alternative approaches that are at least as good as animal tests and potentially more cost effective.
The Institute for Health and Consumer Protection (IHCP)
The IHCP is host to the EU’s principal organisation for the scientific validation of alternative methods to animal testing – ECVAM, the European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods. The Centre is actively involved in the search for test methods which replace, reduce or refine (the 'Three Rs') the use of laboratory animals in the test process. Methods developed by research laboratories are submitted to ECVAM whose assessment of the robustness, reliability and predictive capacity of the methods is based on independent peer review of validation study reports. ECVAM’s work is supported by the ECVAM scientific advisory committee (ESAC). The Institute also engages with regulators and national testing laboratories early in the process to ensure the relevance and suitability of the submitted alternative methods.
ECVAM supports the post-validation regulatory acceptance process both at European Union level and also with international organisations such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and ICH (International Conference on Harmonisation). Many years of dedicated work within ECVAM on the development and validation of methods to detect skin and eye irritants through in vitro methods have recently led to the adoption of an OECD test guidelines for identifying corrosive and severe eye irritants. This was the final step in the regulatory acceptance process at international level. There is also good progress towards the adoption of a test guideline for the replacement of the use of living animals to identify skin irritants by way of in vitro methods using a three dimensional human tissue model of the skin.
More and better test methods
To improve understanding of the potential toxic effects of chemicals, the Institute uses a multi-disciplinary approach which integrates in vitro methods with computational based methodologies (in silico) together with 'omics' approaches. ECVAM focuses on an improved understanding of the way chemicals impact biological systems. This contributes to the development of methods and/or testing strategies that will reduce reliance on studies on living animals (in vivo), even for complex biological effects such as carcinogenicity. The Institute is also developing automated testing approaches both to reduce the time it takes to carry out the toxicological assessments of chemicals and to make the testing more systematic and reliable.
Joint initiative on alternative approaches to animal testing
A joint initiative from the European Commission, European trade associations from seven industry sectors and individual companies in 2005 led to the creation of the European Partnership for Alternative Approaches to Animal Testing (EPAA). Its purpose is to promote the development and implementation of new methods to replace, reduce, refine (the '3 Rs') animal testing with modern alternative approaches.