Screening chemicals in everyday products for safety—without animals
Thousands of substances in toys, electronics and other products have not yet been assessed for their potential risks to consumers. Last year's update to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) could make this task more manageable by setting a new path for prioritizing and evaluating these risks. And much of it will be done without animal testing, according to an article in Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society.
C&EN Senior Editor Britt Erickson reports that most of the tens of thousands of chemicals in products sold throughout the U.S., except for prescription drugs and pesticides, have not been extensively tested for toxicity in lab animals. This lack of knowledge could potentially result in people's exposure to harmful compounds. To address this significant information gap, the TSCA update grants the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency new authority to collect toxicity information from manufacturers to determine which chemicals to focus on for risk evaluation. Also, the law requires the agency to develop a plan by June 22, 2018 for promoting alternative testing methods that reduce or replace the use of vertebrate animals.
However, relying on information from manufacturers could pose a hurdle. Whether industry will share understanding of their in-house technologies and the data they generate is uncertain. These technologies are also not standardized. But EPA has already made some progress toward reducing animal tests. For example, a high-throughput computational model has replaced the need for two animal tests in the agency's program to screen for endocrine disruptors. Other models are in the works.