Current toxicology testing practice has to change – the paradigm is outdated and needs to shift to meet the needs of modern society. Raised social and political expectations for a safer environment and a healthier life, an economic situation that needs innovation rather than strangulation, the emergence of completely new classes of substances such as nanomaterials, and heightened public concerns about animal testing, have created a strong impetus to break with traditional methods. There are considerable regulatory pressures too. From 2013, any type of animal testing on cosmetic products and ingredients will be banned in the EU. In the industrial chemicals sector, legislation (REACH) clearly discourages animal testing and promotes the use of data from alternative methods, if available and sufficient to satisfy hazard information requirements. To date, almost 140 million Euro has been invested by the Commission to advance the development and validation of methods supporting the 3Rs (replacement, reduction, refinement of animal testing) but it has advised in recent communications that current science and tools are far from facilitating a transition to animal-free toxicity assessment.
What does this mean for industry and their ability to innovate? What does it mean for the development of new materials and technologies? How for example will we be able to fully exploit nanotechnologies in sectors such as food, textiles and cosmetics if we lack validated and harmonised methods to test their safety to human health and the environment? These are significant challenges that only science can address. But where should scientists focus their efforts, and what research strategies might deliver success where we have failed in the past?
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