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Animal testing of cosmetics.
Ensuring the protection of the Australian people and the environment from the harmful effects of industrial chemicals, including cosmetics, is a vital function carried out by the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS) under the Australian Government’s framework for managing chemical safety. The community expects that chemicals on the market are safe to use and considers regulation an important way of ensuring safety. NICNAS does not require the testing of each cosmetic product. However, new ingredients to be used in cosmetic products are notified to NICNAS and assessed to determine their safety.
NICNAS’ approach to the assessment of new cosmetic ingredients is dependent on the predicted risk associated with their use. NICNAS only requires a full suite of health effects information on those chemicals considered to warrant more in-depth assessment (e.g. those introduced in high volumes and/or at high concentrations).
The information submitted for a new ingredient needs to cover the relevant health effects and be sufficient to determine safety. The information is developed in accordance with international guidelines to ensure quality and reliability, such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Test Guidelines and Good Laboratory Practice standards. However, any other information submitted is considered in the risk assessment.
The results of tests with animals are used to establish the likely effects of a chemical on human health, and therefore enable a safety assessment to be carried out. Alternative non-animal tests are now being developed. To ensure safety standards are not compromised, it is important that these new tests can be demonstrated to give accurate and reliable information through a validation process.
At the international level there are currently extensive efforts to develop and validate non-animal test methods for different health effects. Once validated, these tests are included in the OECD Test Guidelines.
The OECD also considers animal welfare in the development of test methods and has looked at ways of reducing the number of animals in tests and refining the test methods to reduce pain and distress wherever possible. Some of the Test Guidelines have been updated recently to reflect these principles, for example, the method for acute toxicity testing.
The Australian Government is aware of the European Union marketing ban on cosmetics testing on animals, which has come into effect from 11 March 2013. For health effects which have validated non-animal tests, such as skin and eye irritation, NICNAS currently accepts this information in lieu of animal testing results. However, for many health effects non-animal test methods have either not yet been developed, or are still in the process of evaluation and validation. Therefore, studies carried out with animals according to internationally recognised protocols remain an important resource for assessing the safety of cosmetic ingredients.
NICNAS is closely watching the progress of the development of alternative test methods and is evaluating them for use in safety assessments as they become available and validated.
The Australian Government has a strong interest in all aspects of animal welfare. Australia’s state and territory governments have primary responsibility for animal welfare and laws to prevent cruelty. The Australian Government is responsible for trade and international agreements relating to animal welfare. Some relevant Australian Government websites are those of the National Health and Medical Research Council and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.
Reviewed: 9 May 2013