The European Union (EU) is proposing to increase the number of animals being tested, which could mean thousands of them will be forced to inhale nanomaterials in deadly experiments.

Animal charities People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) UK and the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals (RSPCA) have teamed together to call on Brussels to focus on promoting effective, humane non-animal methods instead of increasing the number of animal tests.

PETA UK have released a petition urging the European Commission and EU Member States to reconsider amending the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemical Regulation (REACH) which is meant to ensure chemicals are tested on animals as a last resort only.

"It is outrageous the European Commission has now proposed changes that call for even more tests on animals"

PETA UK's nanotechnology specialist, Dr. Jodie Melbourne, told Blasting News: "REACH is the largest animal-testing programme in the world, and PETA estimates from official reports that by 2016, more than one million animals had been used in tests to meet its requirements. So it is outrageous the European Commission has now proposed changes that call for even more tests on animals, make it more difficult to avoid such tests, and go against the REACH objective of promoting alternative methods for assessing the hazard potential of substances.

"It is also extremely disturbing that this was all suggested without full consideration of the impact that these changes would have on animal welfare, particularly as they could mean that thousands of animals will be subjected to experiments in which they are forced to inhale or ingest nanomaterials over periods of weeks or months before finally being killed and dissected.

"Decision-makers risk failing in their duty to afford animals adequate protection"

"Although the updates would not affect the requirement that animal testing be avoided wherever possible, which is present in all EU legislation, they could significantly undermine efforts to replace animal tests. By pushing for these changes and potentially ignoring Article 13 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, which states that 'the Union and Member States shall pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals' when formulating and implementing policy, decision-makers risk failing in their duty to afford animals adequate protection."

REACH was introduced by the EU in 2006 and came into full effect in 2007.

It requires chemical companies to provide information about the health effects and environmental hazards of almost every chemical in Europe.

According to PETA UK, their experiments rely on skin and eye tests and acute toxicity tests in which animals were given massive doses of chemicals.

The animal charity said the tests can last for months, or a lifetime, as animals are dosed with chemicals every day.

During reproductive toxicity tests, pregnant animals are force-fed chemicals to see if the substances will cause abnormalities or death in their babies.

PETA UK claims a single reproductive toxicity test can use 2,500 animals.

In 2012, PETA UK submitted a complaint to the European Ombudsman against the European Chemicals Agency for failing to ensure that animal testing is a last resort.

"Serious ethical concerns about the use of animals"

Penny Hawkins, head of the research department at the RSPCA, said they have serious ethical concerns about the use of animals in the safety assessment of chemicals and that greater efforts should be made to replace animal tests with humane alternatives.

She added this is essential for humane and innovative science in the twenty-first century.

A media spokesperson from the European Commission was approached by Blasting News for comment, but they declined to do so.

If you wish to sign PETA UK's petition trying to stop an increase in animal testing, it is still available on their website.