The Draize eye test

Surv Ophthalmol. 2001 May-Jun;45(6):493-515. doi: 10.1016/s0039-6257(01)00211-9.


Hundreds of substances are used daily that can damage eyesight. People's eyes are open to accidental or intentional exposure during the production, transportation, use, and disposal of chemical preparations. Ensuring the safety of consumer products was born during the mid twentieth century in the aftermath of chemical warfare research, and was motivated by the hazards of unsafe cosmetics. Justified by an exigency for public protection, the Draize eye test became a governmentally endorsed method to evaluate the safety of materials meant for use in or around the eyes. The test involves a standardized protocol for instilling agents onto the cornea and conjunctiva of laboratory animals. A sum of ordinal-scale items of the outer eye gives an index of ocular morbidity. Advances in ocular toxicology are challenging the validity, precision, relevance, and need of the Draize eye test. Preclinical product-safety tests with rabbits and other mammals also raise ethical concerns of animal wellbeing. Some use the Draize test as a rallying point for how animals are treated in science and industry. A battery of cellular systems and computer models aim to reduce and ultimately to replace whole-animal testing. Molecular measures of ocular toxicity may eventually allow comprehensive screening in humans. The Draize eye test was created and refined for humanitarian reasons and has assuredly prevented harm. Its destiny is to be progressively supplanted as in vitro and clinical alternatives emerge for assessing irritancy of the ocular surface.

Publication types

  • Biography
  • Historical Article
  • Portrait
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animal Testing Alternatives
  • Animals
  • Conjunctiva / drug effects*
  • Consumer Product Safety
  • Cornea / drug effects*
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical / history
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical / methods*
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Irritants / toxicity*
  • Keratoconjunctivitis / chemically induced*
  • Keratoconjunctivitis / history
  • Models, Biological
  • Toxicity Tests / history
  • Toxicity Tests / methods*
  • United States
  • United States Food and Drug Administration


  • Irritants

Personal name as subject

  • J H Draize