Animal Alternatives in Environmental Science
Published: September 18, 2009
Scott E. Belanger, Ph.D. Research Fellow Procter & Gamble Central Product Safety Miami Valley Innovation Center 11810 East Miami River Rd Cincinnati, Ohio 45253
- The OECD promulgated the Threshold Approach as an addendum to the OECD 203 Test Guideline (TG) for Acute Fish Toxicity: This test strategy is initially driven by knowledge of invertebrate and algal toxicity to establish an appropriate concentration to determine if fish are likely more or less sensitive. Jeram, et al. (2005) determined this approach could reduce fish use by 50-70% in REACH.
- The Fish Embryo Test is under evaluation and validation by an OECD expert group as a replacement to the fish acute toxicity test. Embryo and eleutheroembryo life stages are those in which the yolk sac is the sole source of food for the developing fish. Lammer, et al. (2009) demonstrated a near 1:1 relationship between the Fish Embryo Test and the OECD 203 TG for 5 of the most commonly used species. A validation program is being overseen by the European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods (ECVAM) and involves a collaboration of European and US laboratories representing industry, government, and academia.
- The goal for both of these methods is to retain at least the present level of certainty in environmental risk assessment, while reducing fish use or outright replacement.
European chemical industry efforts of European Chemical Industry Council Long-range Research Initiative (CEFIC LRI), European Centre for Ecotoxicology and Toxicology of Chemicals (ECETOC), and Environmental Risk Assessment and Management (ERASM)
- CELLSens Project to develop testing strategies incorporating cell-based assays: This initiative, consistent with recommendations from Castano, et al. (2003), has coordinated research from leading academic and research institutes across Europe. Detailed protocols are developed for a number of cell lines ranging from fish gill to liver and brain tissues. Strategic priority setting of chemicals to be assayed was outlined by Schirmer, et al. (2008).
- Tools to advance tiered testing strategies for bioaccumulation assessments has been the product of several years’ research by CEFIC, ECETOC, and ERASM. Notably, ILSI-HESI (International Life Sciences Institute-Health and Environmental Sciences Institute) has played an important strategy setting and coordinating role. New cellular and sub-cellular methods to understand biotransformation processes as a mitigating factor are in pre-validation with ECVAM as a partner organization (Weisbrod, et al., 2008).
In addition to the institutions and companies performing the actual research, several organizations are currently involved at various levels to assist these and other related environmental animal alternatives work. Among these are:
- OECD Environmental Directorate
- SETAC (Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry) Science Advisory Group on Environmental Animal Alternatives
In the span of less than a decade, methods have already been elevated for consideration at OECD as draft or approved guidelines, or via ECVAM as validated methods. Much work remains to be done to provide the full breadth of endpoint coverage as well as consideration of amphibian and bird species. Another new challenge is the burgeoning interest in fish as models for higher vertebrates such as mammals used in human safety sciences. More is to be written on these fronts in the coming years. ©2009 Scott E. Belanger
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Lammer, E., Carr, G.J., Wendler, K., Rawlings, J.M., Belanger, S.E., & Braunbeck, T. (2009). Is the Fish Embryo Test (FET) with the zebrafish (Danio rerio) a potential alternative for the fish acute toxicity test? Comp. Biochem. Physiol. C Toxicol. Pharmacol. 149, 196-209.
Schirmer, K., Tanneberger, K., Kramer, N. I., Voelker, D., Scholz, S., Hafner, C., et al. (2008). Developing a list of reference chemicals for testing alternatives to whole fish toxicity tests. Aquat. Toxicol. 90, 128-137.
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Weisbrod, A.V., Sahi, J., Segner, H., James, M.O., Nichols, J., Schultz, I., et al. (2008). The state of in vitro science for use in bioaccumulation assessments for fish. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 28, 86-96.