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3.7.2.: Classification criteria for substances

3.7.2.1. Hazard categories
3.7.2.1.1. For the purpose of classification for reproductive toxicity, substances are allocated to one of two categories. Within each category, effects on sexual function and fertility, and on development, are considered separately. In addition, effects on lactation are allocated to a separate hazard category.


Table 3.7.1(a)

Hazard categories for reproductive toxicants

Categories

Criteria

CATEGORY 1

Known or presumed human reproductive toxicant

Substances are classified in Category 1 for reproductive toxicity when they are known to have produced an adverse effect on sexual function and fertility, or on development in humans or when there is evidence from animal studies, possibly supplemented with other information, to provide a strong presumption that the substance has the capacity to interfere with reproduction in humans. The classification of a substance is further distinguished on the basis of whether the evidence for classification is primarily from human data (Category 1A) or from animal data (Category 1B).

Category 1A

Known human reproductive toxicant

The classification of a substance in Category 1A is largely based on evidence from humans.

Category 1B

Presumed human reproductive toxicant

The classification of a substance in Category 1B is largely based on data from animal studies. Such data shall provide clear evidence of an adverse effect on sexual function and fertility or on development in the absence of other toxic effects, or if occurring together with other toxic effects the adverse effect on reproduction is considered not to be a secondary non-specific consequence of other toxic effects. However, when there is mechanistic information that raises doubt about the relevance of the effect for humans, classification in Category 2 may be more appropriate.

CATEGORY 2

Suspected human reproductive toxicant

Substances are classified in Category 2 for reproductive toxicity when there is some evidence from humans or experimental animals, possibly supplemented with other information, of an adverse effect on sexual function and fertility, or on development, and where the evidence is not sufficiently convincing to place the substance in Category 1. If deficiencies in the study make the quality of evidence less convincing, Category 2 could be the more appropriate classification.

Such effects shall have been observed in the absence of other toxic effects, or if occurring together with other toxic effects the adverse effect on reproduction is considered not to be a secondary non-specific consequence of the other toxic effects.


Table 3.7.1(b)

Hazard category for lactation effects

EFFECTS ON OR VIA LACTATION

Effects on or via lactation are allocated to a separate single category. It is recognised that for many substances there is no information on the potential to cause adverse effects on the offspring via lactation. However, substances which are absorbed by women and have been shown to interfere with lactation, or which may be present (including metabolites) in breast milk in amounts sufficient to cause concern for the health of a breastfed child, shall be classified and labelled to indicate this property hazardous to breastfed babies. This classification can be assigned on the:

(a)  human evidence indicating a hazard to babies during the lactation period; and/or

(b)  results of one or two generation studies in animals which provide clear evidence of adverse effect in the offspring due to transfer in the milk or adverse effect on the quality of the milk; and/or

(c)  absorption, metabolism, distribution and excretion studies that indicate the likelihood that the substance is present in potentially toxic levels in breast milk.

3.7.2.2. Basis of classification
3.7.2.2.1. Classification is made on the basis of the appropriate criteria, outlined above, and an assessment of the total weight of evidence (see 1.1.1). Classification as a reproductive toxicant is intended to be used for substances which have an intrinsic, specific property to produce an adverse effect on reproduction and substances shall not be so classified if such an effect is produced solely as a non-specific secondary consequence of other toxic effects.

The classification of a substance is derived from the hazard categories in the following order of precedence: Category 1A, Category 1B, Category 2 and the additional Category for effects on or via lactation. If a substance meets the criteria for classification into both of the main categories (for example Category 1B for effects on sexual function and fertility and also Category 2 for development) then both hazard differentiations shall be communicated by the respective hazard statements. Classification in the additional category for effects on or via lactation will be considered irrespective of a classification into Category 1A, Category 1B or Category 2.

3.7.2.2.2. In the evaluation of toxic effects on the developing offspring, it is important to consider the possible influence of maternal toxicity (see section 3.7.2.4).
3.7.2.2.3. For human evidence to provide the primary basis for a Category 1A classification there must be reliable evidence of an adverse effect on reproduction in humans. Evidence used for classification shall ideally be from well conducted epidemiological studies which include the use of appropriate controls, balanced assessment, and due consideration of bias or confounding factors. Less rigorous data from studies in humans shall be supplemented with adequate data from studies in experimental animals and classification in Category 1B shall be considered.
3.7.2.3. Weight of evidence
3.7.2.3.1. Classification as a reproductive toxicant is made on the basis of an assessment of the total weight of evidence, see section 1.1.1. This means that all available information that bears on the determination of reproductive toxicity is considered together, such as epidemiological studies and case reports in humans and specific reproduction studies along with sub-chronic, chronic and special study results in animals that provide relevant information regarding toxicity to reproductive and related endocrine organs. Evaluation of substances chemically related to the substance under study may also be included, particularly when information on the substance is scarce. The weight given to the available evidence will be influenced by factors such as the quality of the studies, consistency of results, nature and severity of effects, the presence of maternal toxicity in experimental animal studies, level of statistical significance for inter-group differences, number of endpoints affected, relevance of route of administration to humans and freedom from bias. Both positive and negative results are assembled together into a weight of evidence determination. A single, positive study performed according to good scientific principles and with statistically or biologically significant positive results may justify classification (see also 3.7.2.2.3).
3.7.2.3.2. Toxicokinetic studies in animals and humans, site of action and mechanism or mode of action study results may provide relevant information which reduces or increases concerns about the hazard to human health. If it is conclusively demonstrated that the clearly identified mechanism or mode of action has no relevance for humans or when the toxicokinetic differences are so marked that it is certain that the hazardous property will not be expressed in humans then a substance which produces an adverse effect on reproduction in experimental animals should not be classified.
3.7.2.3.3. If, in some reproductive toxicity studies in experimental animals the only effects recorded are considered to be of low or minimal toxicological significance, classification may not necessarily be the outcome. These effects include small changes in semen parameters or in the incidence of spontaneous defects in the foetus, small changes in the proportions of common foetal variants such as are observed in skeletal examinations, or in foetal weights, or small differences in postnatal developmental assessments.
3.7.2.3.4. Data from animal studies ideally shall provide clear evidence of specific reproductive toxicity in the absence of other systemic toxic effects. However, if developmental toxicity occurs together with other toxic effects in the dam, the potential influence of the generalised adverse effects shall be assessed to the extent possible. The preferred approach is to consider adverse effects in the embryo/foetus first, and then evaluate maternal toxicity, along with any other factors which are likely to have influenced these effects, as part of the weight of evidence. In general, developmental effects that are observed at maternally toxic doses shall not be automatically discounted. Discounting developmental effects that are observed at maternally toxic doses can only be done on a case-by-case basis when a causal relationship is established or refuted.
3.7.2.3.5. If appropriate information is available it is important to try to determine whether developmental toxicity is due to a specific maternally mediated mechanism or to a non-specific secondary mechanism, like maternal stress and the disruption of homeostasis. Generally, the presence of maternal toxicity shall not be used to negate findings of embryo/foetal effects, unless it can be clearly demonstrated that the effects are secondary non-specific effects. This is especially the case when the effects in the offspring are significant, e.g. irreversible effects such as structural malformations. In some situations it can be assumed that reproductive toxicity is due to a secondary consequence of maternal toxicity and discount the effects, if the substance is so toxic that dams fail to thrive and there is severe inanition, they are incapable of nursing pups; or they are prostrate or dying.
3.7.2.4. Maternal toxicity
3.7.2.4.1. Development of the offspring throughout gestation and during the early postnatal stages can be influenced by toxic effects in the mother either through non-specific mechanisms related to stress and the disruption of maternal homeostasis, or by specific maternally-mediated mechanisms. In the interpretation of the developmental outcome to decide classification for developmental effects it is important to consider the possible influence of maternal toxicity. This is a complex issue because of uncertainties surrounding the relationship between maternal toxicity and developmental outcome. Expert judgement and a weight of evidence approach, using all available studies, shall be used to determine the degree of influence that shall be attributed to maternal toxicity when interpreting the criteria for classification for developmental effects. The adverse effects in the embryo/foetus shall be first considered, and then maternal toxicity, along with any other factors which are likely to have influenced these effects, as weight of evidence, to help reach a conclusion about classification.
3.7.2.4.2. Based on pragmatic observation, maternal toxicity may, depending on severity, influence development via non-specific secondary mechanisms, producing effects such as depressed foetal weight, retarded ossification, and possibly resorptions and certain malformations in some strains of certain species. However, the limited number of studies which have investigated the relationship between developmental effects and general maternal toxicity have failed to demonstrate a consistent, reproducible relationship across species. Developmental effects which occur even in the presence of maternal toxicity are considered to be evidence of developmental toxicity, unless it can be unequivocally demonstrated on a case-by-case basis that the developmental effects are secondary to maternal toxicity. Moreover, classification shall be considered where there is a significant toxic effect in the offspring, e.g. irreversible effects such as structural malformations, embryo/foetal lethality, significant post-natal functional deficiencies.
3.7.2.4.3. Classification shall not automatically be discounted for substances that produce developmental toxicity only in association with maternal toxicity, even if a specific maternally-mediated mechanism has been demonstrated. In such a case, classification in Category 2 may be considered more appropriate than Category 1. However, when a substance is so toxic that maternal death or severe inanition results, or the dams are prostrate and incapable of nursing the pups, it is reasonable to assume that developmental toxicity is produced solely as a secondary consequence of maternal toxicity and discount the developmental effects. Classification is not necessarily the outcome in the case of minor developmental changes, when there is only a small reduction in foetal/pup body weight or retardation of ossification when seen in association with maternal toxicity.
3.7.2.4.4. Some of the end points used to assess maternal effects are provided below. Data on these end points, if available, need to be evaluated in light of their statistical or biological significance and dose response relationship.

Maternal mortality:

an increased incidence of mortality among the treated dams over the controls shall be considered evidence of maternal toxicity if the increase occurs in a dose-related manner and can be attributed to the systemic toxicity of the test material. Maternal mortality greater than 10 % is considered excessive and the data for that dose level shall not normally be considered for further evaluation.

Mating index

(no. animals with seminal plugs or sperm/no. mated × 100) ( 13 )

Fertility index

(no. animals with implants/no. of matings × 100)

Gestation length

(if allowed to deliver)

Body weight and body weight change:

Consideration of the maternal body weight change and/or adjusted (corrected) maternal body weight shall be included in the evaluation of maternal toxicity whenever such data are available. The calculation of an adjusted (corrected) mean maternal body weight change, which is the difference between the initial and terminal body weight minus the gravid uterine weight (or alternatively, the sum of the weights of the foetuses), may indicate whether the effect is maternal or intrauterine. In rabbits, the body weight gain may not be useful indicators of maternal toxicity because of normal fluctuations in body weight during pregnancy.

Food and water consumption (if relevant):

The observation of a significant decrease in the average food or water consumption in treated dams compared to the control group is useful in evaluating maternal toxicity, particularly when the test material is administered in the diet or drinking water. Changes in food or water consumption need to be evaluated in conjunction with maternal body weights when determining if the effects noted are reflective of maternal toxicity or more simply, unpalatability of the test material in feed or water.

Clinical evaluations (including clinical signs, markers, haematology and clinical chemistry studies):

The observation of increased incidence of significant clinical signs of toxicity in treated dams relative to the control group is useful in evaluating maternal toxicity. If this is to be used as the basis for the assessment of maternal toxicity, the types, incidence, degree and duration of clinical signs shall be reported in the study. Clinical signs of maternal intoxication include: coma, prostration, hyperactivity, loss of righting reflex, ataxia, or laboured breathing.

Post-mortem data:

Increased incidence and/or severity of post-mortem findings may be indicative of maternal toxicity. This can include gross or microscopic pathological findings or organ weight data, including absolute organ weight, organ-to-body weight ratio, or organ-to-brain weight ratio. When supported by findings of adverse histopathological effects in the affected organ(s), the observation of a significant change in the average weight of suspected target organ(s) of treated dams, compared to those in the control group, may be considered evidence of maternal toxicity.

3.7.2.5. Animal and experimental data
3.7.2.5.1. A number of internationally accepted test methods are available; these include methods for developmental toxicity testing (e.g. OECD Test Guideline 414), and methods for one or two-generation toxicity testing (e.g. OECD Test Guidelines 415, 416).
3.7.2.5.2. Results obtained from Screening Tests (e.g. OECD Guidelines 421 — Reproduction/Developmental Toxicity Screening Test, and 422 — Combined Repeated Dose Toxicity Study with Reproduction/Development Toxicity Screening Test) can also be used to justify classification, although it is recognised that the quality of this evidence is less reliable than that obtained through full studies.
3.7.2.5.3. Adverse effects or changes, seen in short- or long-term repeated dose toxicity studies, which are judged likely to impair reproductive function and which occur in the absence of significant generalised toxicity, may be used as a basis for classification, e.g. histopathological changes in the gonads.
3.7.2.5.4. Evidence from in vitro assays, or non-mammalian tests, and from analogous substances using structure-activity relationship (SAR), can contribute to the procedure for classification. In all cases of this nature, expert judgement must be used to assess the adequacy of the data. Inadequate data shall not be used as a primary support for classification.
3.7.2.5.5. It is preferable that animal studies are conducted using appropriate routes of administration which relate to the potential route of human exposure. However, in practice, reproductive toxicity studies are commonly conducted using the oral route, and such studies will normally be suitable for evaluating the hazardous properties of the substance with respect to reproductive toxicity. However, if it can be conclusively demonstrated that the clearly identified mechanism or mode of action has no relevance for humans or when the toxicokinetic differences are so marked that it is certain that the hazardous property will not be expressed in humans then a substance which produces an adverse effect on reproduction in experimental animals shall not be classified.
3.7.2.5.6. Studies involving routes of administration such as intravenous or intraperitoneal injection, which result in exposure of the reproductive organs to unrealistically high levels of the test substance, or elicit local damage to the reproductive organs, including irritation, must be interpreted with extreme caution and on their own are not normally the basis for classification.
3.7.2.5.7. There is general agreement about the concept of a limit dose, above which the production of an adverse effect is considered to be outside the criteria which lead to classification, but not regarding the inclusion within the criteria of a specific dose as a limit dose. However, some guidelines for test methods, specify a limit dose, others qualify the limit dose with a statement that higher doses may be necessary if anticipated human exposure is sufficiently high that an adequate margin of exposure is not achieved. Also, due to species differences in toxicokinetics, establishing a specific limit dose may not be adequate for situations where humans are more sensitive than the animal model.
3.7.2.5.8. In principle, adverse effects on reproduction seen only at very high dose levels in animal studies (for example doses that induce prostration, severe inappetence, excessive mortality) would not normally lead to classification, unless other information is available, e.g. toxicokinetics information indicating that humans may be more susceptible than animals, to suggest that classification is appropriate. Please also refer to the section on maternal toxicity (3.7.2.4) for further guidance in this area.
3.7.2.5.9. However, specification of the actual ‘limit dose’ will depend upon the test method that has been employed to provide the test results, e.g. in the OECD Test Guideline for repeated dose toxicity studies by the oral route, an upper dose of 1 000 mg/kg has been recommended as a limit dose, unless expected human response indicates the need for a higher dose level.