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Press release - February 12th, 2007

Obsolete toxicology and human health in peril

Antidote Europe challenges the European Commission on the subject of the tests required in the framework of REACH. Drawn up with the aim of safeguarding human life and the environment, the REACH Regulation was adopted last December. However, rather than making use of modern methods to reveal the toxicity of chemical substances, tests will continue to be conducted, as in the Middle Ages, on animals and to give results that are as uncertain as tossing a coin... unless such results are aimed at showing the harmlessness of substances that are nevertheless dangerous!

Antidote Europe has just written to the European Commission, whose directives determine the methods by which chemical substances are to be tested, reminding it of the existence of scientific methods such as toxicogenomics. This method has already been in use in the United States for some years. More recently, the Joint Research Centre, under the aegis of the European Commission, set up a toxicogenomics department. Since toxicogenomics gives results that are valid for humans, is more rapid and costs less than the tests currently required, why is its use being delayed? Why does the European Commission continue to insist on tests on animals, although these were called "simply bad science" by a member of its own scientific staff?

Belgium will perhaps set a good example. On 29th November last, the Social Affairs Committee of the Belgian Senate passed a motion for a resolution aimed at the creation of a centre for toxicogenomics. Were such a centre to be set up, it would take only two years to test the 100,000 chemical substances potentially present in our environment.

Below is the text of the letter sent by Antidote Europe to Mr. Josť Manuel Barroso on 8th February last.

Antidote Europe is a non-profit making association set up by researchers, mostly from the CNRS, working for better safeguards in respect of human health.

Dear Sir,

We are still awaiting your answer to the letter we wrote you in the first quarter of 2006 asking you, in accordance with Directive 86/609/EEC, to replace toxicological tests conducted on animals by scientific evaluations of the toxic risks for humans that have proved their worth, such as toxicogenomics. We remind you that the letter was signed by 140 associations representing more than 1,200,000 citizens of 12 countries working in various fields (health, environment, animal defence, etc.). After several requests to your private office for an appointment, a delegation from these associations (including several scientists) was able, on 10th July last, to hand this letter to a member of the private office of the Environment Commissioner, who has informed us that the letter was transmitted to your private office on 3rd August last. During our meeting, she stated that we would receive a written answer. We are disagreeably surprised at the silence of the European Commission of which you are President in respect of a petition by more than a million citizens concerning the main concern of each of them: safeguarding his or her health.

We are particularly astonished at this silence, since the REACH Regulation, finally adopted on 18th December last, stipulates that: "The Commission, Member States, industry and other stakeholders should continue to contribute to the promotion of alternative test methods on an international and national level including computer supported methodologies, in vitro methodologies, such as appropriate, those based on toxicogenomics, and other relevant methodologies." Although there is abundant proof of the relevance of this method in terms of cost, speed and, above all, validity of the results for humans, in particular for the identification of cancerigenic, neurotoxic and reprotoxic substances (the United States set up a National Center for Toxicogenomics in 2003), at the end of 2006 the European Commission launched a five-year "carcinogenomic" research programme, although this discipline is currently applied and went beyond its research stage years ago. Not only is the Commission thereby wasting 10.6 millions euros of taxpayers' money, is it also going to wait for the end of the study to decide to implement relevant toxicological methods in REACH?

If, as it is indicated in REACH, "The Community's strategy to promote alternative test methods is a priority and the Commission should ensure that (...) this remains a priority topic.", it is for you to prove that these are not mere words. Present technical possibilities enable archaic tests on animals to be replaced by truly scientific, reliable methods that are moreover faster and cheaper.

More than a million Europeans die each year from cancer, while others suffer from neurological illnesses, sterility, etc. More and more studies show the implication of synthetic chemical substances in these pathologies and deaths. Delaying the toxicological evaluation of the 100,000 existing substances means further victims every day.

We remain at your disposition for a meeting in your offices.

Yours faithfully,

Encl. : Copy of the letter handed to the European Commission on 10th July 2006