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Toxicologists examine 30,000 chemicals

(Vienna, 17 Feb. 2010) From 22 to 23 February the Austrian Society of Toxicology will be meeting at the Cancer Research Institute of the Medical University of Vienna. The focus is on the EU programme REACH, in which around 30,000 insufficiently examined chemicals are planned to be analysed by 2018, and the development of in-vitro test procedures, which aim to increasingly replace animal experiments for assessing carcinogenic substances.

Today there are between 80,000 and 100,000 synthetically manufactured chemical substances on the market worldwide. A large part of these chemicals are old substances which were already in circulation before 1981. Only a small part of these have been sufficiently studied in toxicological terms, however. There is not always reliable information available even for chemicals of which thousands of tons are produced each year.

Alternative methods to animal experiments
The European Union set an ambitious target with the REACH programme (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals), which was introduced in October 2003: according to the motto "no data – no market", in the future only those materials may be put on the market for which there is sufficient data available to assess possible health risks. According to the information of the EU this concerns around 30,000 chemicals. Implementation began two years ago and the test procedures have to be concluded by 1 June 2018 at the latest, arranged according to the annual production quantity. Alongside this programme, great efforts are being made to replace animal experiments with animal-free methods. Here the research group under Univ. Prof. Dr. Bettina Grasl-Kraupp (Cancer Research Institute at MedUni Vienna) has finally been able to present promising successes, and as part of an EU-financed project there is now new research focusing on this area in Vienna. During the conference Prof. Dr. Thomas Hartung (University of Constance/D and Johns Hopkins University, Maryland/USA), one of the leading international scientists in the field of "alternative methods to animal experiments", will be reporting on his sensational new findings.

Cancer prevention using chemicals
Renowned scientists from the Cancer Research Institute and other leading institutions in this field will also be presenting their latest data on the theme of cancer prevention using chemicals (chemoprevention). Some chemical substances inhibit carcinogen-activating enzymes while they induce the protective enzymes which break down carcinogens. At the same time, defence mechanisms against oxidative stress are often enhanced on several levels and the repair of damaged genetic material (damaged DNA) is stimulated.

Prof. Dr. Wilfried Bursch, Chairman of the Austrian Society of Toxicology and organiser of the scientific symposium, is expecting stimulating discussions: "REACH is a major investment to protect the health of people. Two years after it was implemented, the first experiences from the perspective of the authorities and industry are being discussed and reports are being made on problems that occurred when assessing the safety of chemicals. The toxicologists at MedUni Vienna are expecting a lot of stimulus for their research from this, and therefore also major benefits for the health of the population."

» Research Unit Chemical Safety and Cancer Prevention