September 25, 2015
In 2008 three major U.S. regulatory agencies announced the ground-breaking ToxCast initiative to reduce reliance on animals for chemical testing. Since then, the impetus to shift to non-animal test methods has continued to grow.
On September 8, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), an original member of the ToxCast program, announced a partnership with Unilever to expand that effort by advancing cutting-edge methods to evaluate the safety of chemicals without using animals or animal data.
Global giant Unilever, the world’s third largest manufacturer of consumer goods, has research facilities worldwide including in the U.S. The company owns over 400 brands and is the world’s largest producer of food spreads. Unilever is recognized in the U.S. for its signature product lines: Dove, Hellman’s, Knorr and Lipton.
The goal of the EPA-Unilever collaboration is to develop chemical safety tests and risk assessments which are more human-relevant. Using the automated chemical screening technologies that are part of the ToxCast project, the EPA will further develop and provide data. Unilever will contribute funding in addition to its years of copious research data on consumer products.
The EPA ToxCast program is a massive automated screening system which can quickly and effectively scan and assess thousands of chemicals.
Central to the project is the use of human cells or cellular components that deliver accurate and human-relevant information in contrast to animal tests.
A robotic device is used to mass screen chemicals
Photo credit: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
While Unilever still does animal testing, the company claims it is limited to areas where there are no alternatives and says they are committed to ending it entirely.
Julia Fentem, Vice President of Unilever’s Safety and Environmental Assurance Centre, said “This research collaboration is strategically very important for Unilever’s long-held ambition to eliminate the need for any animal testing while also continuing to ensure the safety of consumers and our environment. If we had robust scientific tools to accurately and rapidly predict exposures to chemicals at the cellular and molecular levels within the human body, this would be a huge step forward in being able to conduct safety risk assessments without using animal data.”
For the animals who suffer the toxic effects of exposure tests that force them to inhale and ingest chemicals, an end to these kinds of tests cannot come soon enough.
Citizens for Alternatives to Animal Research (CAARE), is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, established to highlight and promote research without animals.
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