This situation comes as a direct result of changes instigated by two separate set of regulation: the European Cosmetics Directive, and in particular its 7th Amendment in 2007, and the regulations concerning the Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals (REACH). This legislation paved the way for a staggered ban on animal testing, which is due to culminate in the total ban on the sale in Europe of any cosmetics tested on animals, whether it concerns the final products or its ingredients, and wherever in the world the tests have been made.
However, as it now clearly appears there will not be enough alternative methods to fully replace animal tests by 2013, it is still unclear, at the moment, as to whether the deadline is feasible. Premium Beauty News asked Dr. Florian Weighardt its insight into some of the most pressing issues faced by the industry in finding suitable and safe alternatives.
Premium Beauty News - If the March 2013 deadline is not met, what potential new date will be set?
Dr. Florian Weighardt - Any new deadline for the total ban of animal testing will probably be set for a time when all the alternative tests will be available. But nobody really knows. The final word lies in the hands of the legislators, who act on the basis of the scientific opinions they receive from experts. Obviously, politicians will also take into account all the social and economic inputs coming from the industry, consumers and involved NGOs or associations.
Premium Beauty News - What will be the most difficult test to find alternatives to?
Dr. Florian Weighardt - The most difficult tests to find alternatives for are those which involve complex physiological and metabolic processes, for example toxicokinetics, repeated dose toxicity, skin sensitization, carcinogenicity, and reproductive toxicity. The development of suitable alternatives for these complex tests represents a huge challenge for scientists. These tests all have the scope to assess toxicological aspects of ingredients, which involve the eventual metabolic processing of substances, its eventual accumulation and the effects of chronic exposures over time. None of these aspects can be assessed in a “simple” cell culture.
Premium Beauty News - Are the cosmetic companies themselves funding the research into alternatives?
Dr. Florian Weighardt - Yes, several companies are investing huge amounts into the development and validation of these alternative tests - it has become essential. Animal testing actually requires highly specialised structures and numerous authorities to run effectively, not to mention the many and obvious ethical concerns associated with it. The alternative tests have the advantage of requiring less governmental supervision to operate, whilst also removing the morality issue from the debate.
Premium Beauty News - Does the ban have the potential to change the cosmetic industry permanently - for example, will some products cease to become viable and simply not be made any more?
Dr. Florian Weighardt - Only time will tell. Theoretically, if an approved set of alternative testing methods is made available, nothing will change. On the other hand the obligations of REACH, combined with the ban of animal testing, will require the unprecedented testing of new and already existing compounds. As a consequence, chemical industries and manufacturers will feel the impact, though we’ll have to wait and see how severe this is.