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Press release - April 25th, 2005
Europeans demand a reliable assessment of chemicals' toxicity
With reference to the REACH project, several organizations have written to the European Commission and Parliament (Mr Jose Manuel Barroso and Josep Borrell Fontelles) to demand that animal experimentation is abandoned in favour of reliable methods for assessing toxicity of chemicals.
Antidote Europe, coordinator of this action, has been created by researchers with a long experience in public research institutions and proposes a Scientific Toxicology Program (STP) based on human cells culture, genomics (toxicogenomics) and DNA chips. The reliability of the STP has been proven with laboratory tests.
STP presents advantages for all interested parties : rapidity (30 000 chemicals could be tested within a year instead of ten years as evoked by the EC if animals were to be used), low cost (100 times less than with animals), no animals sacrificed, encouragement of new technologies in Europe (genomics and DNA chips are being used in many recent projects in the USA) and, most important, reliable toxicity assessment for humans.
Several organizations, in different European countries, devoided to different subjects, have signed the same letter, proving that millions of European citizens feel concern and hope that European institutions will really adopt rules to protect human health. It is now demonstrated that chemical pollution is responsible for the exponential rise in cancer, allergies, neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer or Parkinson, for low fertility.
Therefore, it is urgent to adopt REACH but on the condition that reliable methods for toxicity assessment are implemented. If we still use animal experimentation, which absolves many dangerous substances, REACH's consequences could be opposite to its aim, since substances could be authorized (non toxic for animals) in spite of being toxic for us.
Dear Mr Barroso,
The European Parliament, Council and Commission over which you preside, will soon be deciding the fate of the REACH proposal and its subsequent amendments. At a time when a significant number of researchers, medical scientists and public health workers have expressed alarm at the exponential increase in cancers and neurological diseases of the last 50 years - which correlates with the ever- increasing number of chemicals around us - you are now in a unique position to show the citizens of Europe that you intend to take their health seriously into account.
In point of fact, diseases that were once considered rare and typically associated with the elderly, are now appearing in ever younger populations. For example, deaths due to brain cancer in France have increased 14-fold between 1945 and 1995, in people 35 to 39 years of age; there is a significant increase in the number of males born with deformed genitals; Parkinson's disease now affects people as young as 30 years of age; the incidences of asthma, allergies and autism have all increased exponentially. Medical scientists specializing in human embryology have reported finding foreign chemicals in the umbilical cords of new born babies. A survey by Greenpeace has demonstrated the presence of numerous toxic chemicals in households, and an investigation by WWF has shown that our bloodstream is contaminated with tens of different chemical substances. There is now a clear cause and effect relationship between the presence of these chemicals in our environment and the negative health trends in the European Union.
While we welcome the adoption of the REACH proposal, it is essential that toxic risk assessment methods in the proposal be reliable. Otherwise, as you can imagine, REACH will be pointless. At present, the REACH proposal relies chiefly on animal experiments as a means of assessing toxic risk. The example of adverse drug reactions as the fourth leading cause of death in many developed nations is a sobering testimony to the lack of efficacy of animal testing in identifying human health risk (all drugs have been tested on animals, as the law requires it).
In the present era, we have the scientific tools with which to accurately predict human toxic risk. The organization 'Antidote Europe'(www.antidote-europe.org) has formulated a Scientific Toxicology Program (STP) combining human cell culture and the modern technology of genomics and DNA chips. The public health significance of this technology will shortly be announced at a forthcoming press conference. The STP can assess the toxic risk potential of 30,000 or even 100,000 chemical substances in one or three years, respectively, at one hundredth the cost of using laboratory animals. The results obtained using the STP thus represent major advantages for all concerned - corporate industrialists, as well as ecologists, animal welfare and public health campaigners.
The STP represents the crowning achievement of 15 years of research involving scientific experts across five continents. The scientists now at Antidote Europe have organized two successful European Workshops in molecular toxicology (in 1996 and 1999), attended by world-renowned toxicologists specializing in this field. These individuals have brought with them many years of research experience gained in public institutions. They have collaborated with European companies, which have since incorporated these advanced techniques, involving toxicity testing in human cell cultures.
Similar trends are apparent in other parts of the world, e.g. the US Environmental Protection Agency (http://dels.nas.edu/emergingissues/meet8.asp) and the National Toxicology Program (http://ntp.niehs.nih.gov link 'NTP Vision & Roadmap). Does the European Commission wish to ignore this wave of progression, by allowing other countries to take the lead and subsequently penalizing those EU companies wishing to adopt this new technology that provides the best means of protecting public health?
It is no secret that animal experiments can be designed to prove or to disprove any desired result. For example, a chemical substance can be shown to be highly carcinogenic (cancer causing) by selecting a C3H strain of mouse. However, by selecting a C57B1 strain, that same chemical substance will be shown to be very mildly carcinogenic. This 'flexibility' can be easily exploited by any industry with a commercial agenda.
The citizens of Europe will judge the public health impact of the REACH proposal on the basis of the testing methods that will ultimately be used to protect that same public.
Many non governmental organizations (concerned with consumer, environmental or animal welfare issues) in many different countries, representing millions of European citizens recognise and approve the Program of scientific toxicology, and ask that this Program (or a system that is equally reliable) be adopted within the framework of REACH, as a means of assessing the toxic potential of chemical substances.
The research scientists based at Antidote Europe are willing to provide additional information and to assist EU bodies to accelerate the implementation of this Program
We welcome any steps that will contribute positively to good health for our children and all future generations, and to those who may never be able to enjoy a pollution-free environment.