New Guidance Supporting Safer Alternative Chemical Selection Released by OECD

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) recently issued guidance information focused on the selection of safer alternative chemicals. This information was compiled to facilitate an understanding of the minimum requirements needed for determining the safety of chemical alternatives. Here we take a look at the issue of chemical substitution and review key aspects of the new guidance.

Chemical Substitution and Related Benefits

Replacing hazardous substances with safer alternatives, known as informed substitution, is a key aspect of chemical management. It is an important step for companies wishing to reduce the health and environmental impact of the chemicals they use and produce.

Many potential benefits are associated with substituting hazardous chemicals with safer substances. While obvious ones include things like improved health and safety and potential cost savings, other related benefits include the following:

  • Doing “What Is Right”

    • Many companies view replacing something harmful (i.e., hazardous chemicals) with something less harmful (i.e., safer chemicals) as the right thing to do.
  • Doing for the Greater Good

    • When a company substitutes hazardous chemicals with safer ones, it not only decreases risk and increases safety for its employees, but it also does so for consumers that use its products. This can result in significant benefits on an environmental level, as well.
  • Public Image Improvement

    • When a company takes actions that increase safety for individuals and the environment, it may contribute to an improved public image.

About the New Guidance

The recently released guidance considers the minimum criteria for four key alternative assessment areas:

  • Scope determination
  • Comparative hazard assessment
  • Comparative exposure assessment
  • Safer alternative selection
  • Scope Determination

    • An essential preliminary step in alternatives assessment, determination of scope helps establish key goals and allows for a more focused assessment. The OECD’s guidance recommends that scoping utilize relevant input from stakeholders. It also recommends that goals, principles, and decision rules used be defined for the scoping process.
  • Comparative Hazard Assessment

    • Comparative hazard assessment is intended to compare the hazards of priority chemicals with those of alternative chemicals. Minimum requirements for this process include:
      • Use of Authoritative Lists
      • Use of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) in selecting endpoints and appropriate thresholds
      • Defining of proper decision rules
      • Consideration of data gaps
  • Comparative Exposure Assessment

    • Comparative exposure assessment is designed to compare differences in the exposure potential of alternative chemicals in relation to priority chemicals. The OECD guidance recommends that exposure assessment include determination of likely exposure circumstances and pathways. It also highlights the significance of comparing exposure potential between alternatives.
  • Safer Alternative Selection

    • The OECD guidance notes that integration of results from these aforementioned assessments is vital for the proper selection of safer alternative chemicals, as is the weighing of relevant trade-offs.

More detailed information on the considerations discussed may be found by reviewing the guidance document directly.

Accessing the Information You Need

If you are a professional involved with the assessment of safer chemical alternatives, being able to access authoritative information quickly and easily is critical. ToxPlanet can help provide the information you need with our suite of powerful decision support solutions. To learn more about our offerings and how they can help you, contact us today and register for a Free Trial.