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An Evaluation of the Proposed OECD Testing Strategy for Skin Corrosion

Andrew P. Worth, Julia H. Fentem, Michael Balls, Philip A. Botham, Rodger D. Curren, Lesley K. Earl, David J. Esdaile and Manfred Liebsch

The use of testing strategies which incorporate a range of alternative methods and which use animals only as a last resort is widely considered to provide a reliable way of predicting chemical toxicity while minimising animal testing. The widespread concern over the severity of the Draize rabbit test for assessing skin irritation and corrosion led to the proposal of a stepwise testing strategy at an OECD workshop in January 1996. Subsequently, the proposed testing strategy was adopted, with minor modifications, by the OECD Advisory Group on Harmonization of Classification and Labelling. This article reports an evaluation of the proposed OECD testing strategy as it relates to the classification of skin corrosives. By using a set of 60 chemicals, an assessment was made of the effect of applying three steps in the strategy, taken both individually and in sequence. The results indicate that chemicals can be classified as corrosive (C) or non-corrosive (NC) with sufficient reliability by the sequential application of three alternative methods, i.e., structure-activity relationships (where available), pH measurements, and a single in vitro method (either the rat skin transcutaneous electrical resistance (TER) assay or the EPISKINTM assay). It is concluded that the proposed OECD strategy for skin corrosion can be simplified without compromising its predictivity. For example, it does not appear necessary to measure acid/alkali reserve (buffering capacity) in addition to pH for the classification of pure chemicals.