In March this year, Australia passed the Industrial Chemicals Act 2019. It is part of a package of Acts and establishes a legislative framework for the Australian Industrial Chemicals Introduction Scheme (AICIS). From 1 July 2020, AICIS will regulate the introduction (importation and manufacture) of industrial chemicals. This will ensure that chemicals used in consumer products such as cosmetics are safe for consumers and the environment.
The new legislation introduces a de facto ban on new animal testing for ingredients solely used in cosmetics from 1 July 2020. The ban does not apply to animal testing as such, but to the use of data from animal testing to prove that chemicals manufactured in or imported to Australia are safe to humans and the environment. Under the new legislation, industrial chemicals for sole use in cosmetics can be imported or manufactured only if they provide safety data that do not rely on animal testing conducted after 1 July 2020. This provides a disincentive for companies to conduct safety (toxicity) testing on animals, because such data will not be acceptable under the new legislation. Technically this is not a ban on animal testing, but it is as good as a ban – but a ban that applies only to single use cosmetics ingredients. Most cosmetics ingredients are used for other purposes as well.
For more detail see my previous post.
The Industrial Chemicals Act gives power to the Minister to make rules that guide the implementation of the Act. While the Act provides an overarching framework, the Ministerial Rules will add detail about the operation of the scheme. The Australian Government is now seeking feedback on draft Rules:
We are seeking your feedback on changes we are proposing to the draft General Rules for the new scheme. … After we consider your feedback, we will finalise the General Rules for the Minister to make. These Rules will then be tabled in Parliament.
I encourage you to add your voice and let the government know that we want a complete ban on cosmetics animal testing, and that such a ban should be the start of phasing out animal testing more broadly. In the following, I offer the points I will be making in my submission. You are welcome to make use of these in your submission.
The following comments refer to section 4 of the consultation document – “Proposed changes related to the use of new animal test data”, pp. 6-7.
The consultation document notes the following:
We are proposing that the General Rules restrict the use of new animal test data for these introductions where the chemical has multiple end uses, including in cosmetics, unless certain exceptions apply to maintain human health and environment protection
I support the intention of extending the ban on new animal test data to include multi-purpose chemicals used in cosmetic products. However, exceptions – if they are permitted at all – should only be acceptable for a short period and a date for their end should be set. This will give industry an incentive to develop human-relevant non-animal test methods, or use those non-animal methods that are already available. The ban of cosmetics testing in the European Union – at a time before validated non-animal testing methods were available for all toxicity endpoints – has shown that legislation can speed up the development of non-animal tests. For example, the European Commission made the point that:
Past experience demonstrates clearly that animal testing provisions in the cosmetics legislation have been a key accelerator in relation to the development of alternative methods and have sent a strong signal far beyond the cosmetics sector and far beyond Europe.
In response to exceptions that are proposed to apply when “there are no validated alternative tests to determine this characteristic other than animal tests”, I make the following observation: Chemical safety testing has historically been based on animal testing, although animal tests have not undergone the same type of validation which has been developed and/or is required for non-animal tests. Indeed, animal tests are mostly not predictive of human response to drugs and disease.
Non-animal test methods
The consultation paper refers to read-across information*. I suggest that the office of the Executive Director of the new Australian Industrial Chemicals Introduction Scheme include staff with expertise in new human-relevant non-animal testing methods and technologies. Further, I recommend
- that AICIS staff inform and educate industry on relevant non-animal methods and facilitate their uptake, and
- that AICIS collaborate with the NHMRC to make a portion of funding for biomedical research available to support the development and uptake of new animal-free testing methods that will be acceptable under the new legislation.
I suggest that the office of the Executive Director of AICIS publish annual statistics on the use of animal test data. The public is interested in such data.
Phasing out of animal toxicity testing
I propose that AICIS, in collaboration with relevant stakeholders (which should, among others, include representatives from animal advocacy groups such as Humane Research Australia), develop a plan to phase out animal toxicity testing for all industrial chemicals. The government of the Netherlands has such a plan: it will phase out animal procedures in regulatory safety research (such as testing of chemical substances, food ingredients, pesticides, medicines and vaccines) by 2025, and transition to animal-free methods in fundamental scientific research and applied and translational research at a later time. In other countries, collaborations on the development and uptake of non-animal testing and research methods are already in progress, such as Toxicology in the 21st Century (US) and the European Partnership for Alternative Approaches to Animal Testing.
In conclusion, the Australian Government is to be commended for its intention to broaden the ban on the use of new animal test data for ingredients that are solely used in cosmetics. A ban on animal test data for ALL chemicals used in cosmetic products would be welcome. Most Australians are opposed to animal testing of cosmetics and want this cruel and unnecessary practice to stop. While the new legislation and the proposed Ministerial Rules are a step in the right direction, too many loopholes are of concern.
* Read-across is a computer-based method that uses data from a substance for which safety (toxicity) information is available, to make predictions for a structurally similar substance about which not much is known.