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NC3Rs: National Centre for the Replacement Refinement & Reduction of Animals in Research
Guidance

Environmental safety testing

Introduction

Our work in this area aims to provide an evidence base to refine and reduce the use of vertebrates in (regulatory) ecotoxicology studies. This is supported by a working group of experts in the field from industry, academia, regulatory and government agencies. The group published a consensus opinion piece in 2015 outlining the current and future 3Rs priority areas within ecotoxicity testing.

So far, we have mainly focused on reducing the use of fish, particularly in the testing of plant protection products (e.g. pesticides) and industrial chemicals. Projects have largely utilised retrospective data analysis of company-owned or publicly available data. 

Applying the 3Rs in fish acute toxicity testing

Fish acute toxicity studies are the most widely conducted ecotoxicology test and cause severe suffering, with many thousands of animals used worldwide each year. They are used to determine the Lethal Concentration of a substance that causes death in 50% of the test population (LC50) during short-term exposure – over hours or days – and are the only standardised fish test where death is the intended endpoint. They are currently required to meet global regulations across many chemical sectors before products can be marketed, including agrochemicals, biocides, and industrial chemicals.

Two of our in-house data analysis projects, supported by expert working groups, have led to recommendations on ways to replace, reduce and refine fish acute toxicity studies. In 2020, the NC3Rs Ecotoxiology Working Group published a paper outlining the key 3Rs opportunities in this area and a summary of the paper was presented at SETAC SciCon 2020.

Our projects in this area:

Assessing the need for chronic fish studies on formulated pesticides

An NC3Rs-led project to determine the scientific and regulatory drivers for chronic toxicity testing of formulated PPPs in fish.

You can read more about this project on our project page: Assessing the need for chronic fish studies on formulated pesticides.

Applying the one concentration approach in fish bioaccumulation studies

In collaboration with scientists from Syngenta, BASF and Dow AgroSciences, we have generated an evidence base which supports the one concentration approach in fish bioaccumulation studies for both PPPs and industrial chemicals. 

Publication: Reducing the number of fish in bioconcentration studies for plant protection products by reducing the number of test concentrations

Publication: Reducing the number of fish in bioconcentration studies with general chemicals by reducing the number of test concentrations

You can read more about this project on our project page: Applying the one concentration approach in fish bioaccumulation studies.

Review of global data requirements for plant protection products

Recommendations for best practice and global harmonisation.

You can read more about this project on our project page: Review of global data requirements for plant protection products.

Reducing repetition of regulatory vertebrate ecotoxicology studies

Reducing requests for the repetition of regulatory ecotoxicity studies.

You can read more about this project on our project page: Reducing repetition of regulatory vertebrate ecotoxicology studies.

Keep up to date with the latest news from the NC3Rs Toxicology and Regulatory Sciences programme.