Unilever and U.S. EPA announce research collaboration for non-animal approaches to chemical risk assessment

Unilever and U.S. EPA announce research collaboration for non-animal approaches to chemical risk assessment

Personal care giant Unilever and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have joined forces to undertake ground-breaking scientific approaches to assess chemicals used in consumer products without using animal data.

The cutting-edge approaches developed by Unilever and EPA are intended to result in better ways to evaluate new ingredients and chemicals, and the potential affect they will have on human health. They are said to represent the first steps in chemical safety testing and risk assessment, making them more relevant to humans, cheaper and faster.

Vice President of Unilever’s Safety and Environmental Assurance Centre, Julia Fentem, said, “This research collaboration is strategically very important for Unilever’s long-held ambition to eliminate the need for any animal testing while also continuing to ensure the safety of consumers and our environment. If we had robust scientific tools to accurately and rapidly predict exposures to chemicals at the cellular and molecular levels within the human body, this would be a huge step forward in being able to conduct safety risk assessments without using animal data.”

Unilever is putting $800,000 towards the collaboration, offering considerable scientific expertise to help generate and integrate new exposure data to develop a model approach for high throughput risk assessments that include both hazard and exposure predictions.

Case studies will be developed based on chemicals that are of mutual interest to both parties. Unilever will use its considerable consumer knowledge to estimate exposure for the chemicals while EPA will provide and develop data using these automated screening technologies. Information found will be used by both Unilever and EPA and developed into risk assessment. It will also help inform how EPA’s ToxCast project can be used by private and public entities as well as in the development of chemical risk assessments.

Unilever has developed its initiative from its Safety and Envirinmenal Assurance Centre. Celebrating its 25th year, it sees the research area of non-animal approaches as being one of the ‘big scientific challenges that has shaped its evolution over the past quarter of a century.

Dr. Russell Thomas, Director of EPA’s National Center for Computational Toxicology, says, “If successful, research from this collaboration will result in better ways to evaluate the potential human health effects of new ingredients and chemicals we currently know little about.
“These methods could be used by both industry and governmental agencies to reduce the costs associated with safety testing and accelerate the pace of chemical risk assessment.”