AltTox.org is celebrating its first year as the world's only website devoted exclusively to advancing
non-animal alternatives in the rapidly changing field of toxicity testing.
Launched in December 2007 as a collaborative project of The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and The Proctor and Gamble Company (P&G), AltTox (www.alttox.org) is a platform for professionals interested in information-exchange and perspectives on non-animal methods for toxicity testing.
The development of toxicity testing methods that do not use animals is a rapidly expanding field.AltTox's audience includes professionals working in industry, government, academia, and nongovernmental organizations who have varied informational interests, from the scientific to the technical to the policy-related.
AltTox seeks to bridge this diversity by creating a single online community of stakeholders.
Turning To Alternatives
Toxicity tests—or "safety" tests as they are often called—are designed to assess the harmful effects that a substance, such as antifreeze or pesticides, could have on human health or the environment.
Historically, toxicity tests have used animals as surrogates for people. Tens of thousands of chemicals have been tested using animals. Even today, millions of animals are used in toxicity tests worldwide each year.
AltTox.org features message boards, articles from professionals in the field and a toxicity testing resource center. HSUS
The development of toxicity testing methods that do not use animals has progressed slowly but steadily since the 1980s.
These alternatives typically involve one of two approaches: "in vitro" methods involve cells, tissues, or molecules in the modern-day version of test tubes, while "in silico methods" rely on computer-based modeling of biological processes.
It can take several years before a concept for an alternative testing method is able to begin being replacing animal-based methods. This process involves three main stages:
- Development: translating an idea into a method that shows some potential
- Validation: determining whether the new method performs well enough in different laboratories to supplant the historical test
- Regulatory Acceptance: convincing regulatory agencies such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that data from the new test is at least as good as data from the conventional test in protecting public health.
Navigating the Site
The development, validation, and regulatory acceptance of non-animal methods of toxicity testing are among the many issues covered in AltTox's three interconnected sections:
- AlTox Forums: Interactive message boards where visitors can post and discuss news, information, feedback and commentary
- The Toxicity Testing Resource Center: A comprehensive library of information and resources related to toxicity testing and non-animal alternative test methods
- The Way Forward: Commentaries and articles from professionals in the field that address what is needed to advance non-animal testing alternatives
Although AltTox is managed by The HSUS and P&G, distinguished subject matter experts serve as members of the website's editorial board and as moderators of the interactive forums.
A Global Audience
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AltTox.org has gained an increasing number of users since its launch. Current forum postings have been accessed more than 200,000 times, nearly 1,600 professionals subscribe to the monthly AltTox e-newsletter and there are approximately 4,000 visits to the site each month.
AltTox is linked to several other organizations involved in alternative methods for toxicity testing and has been cited in a number of Internet articles. Scientists and other professional who have contributed to AltTox include members of American, European Union, and Japanese government agencies; American and European Union corporations and small businesses, and non-governmental organizations.
“By pulling together key information on non-animal methods of toxicity testing and creating an online community of professionals interested in the methods, our aim is to facilitate the kind of information-exchange and discussion that can help hasten progress in replacing animal-based tests with modern methods that do not harm animals” said Martin Stephens, HSUS vice president for animal research issues.
“These methods will not only spare animals from suffering, but also better protect the health of humans, animals, and the environment.”