EPA Announces New Tool to Promote Safer Chemicals and Products
As part of Administrator Lisa P. Jackson’s commitment to strengthen and reform chemical management, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced new criteria to help companies and other groups, such as states and environmental organizations, identify safer chemicals. As part of the agency’s Design for the Environment (DfE) program, EPA unveiled the new criteria which are an important tool under its DfE Alternatives Assessments for identifying safer alternatives to chemicals that pose a concern to human health and the environment.
“This new approach for evaluating and identifying safer chemicals is an important step toward ensuring that that the chemicals used in this country are safe,” said Steve Owens, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “Making this information available will not only lead to the manufacture of safer products, it will increase the public’s access to critical chemical information.”
The DfE program works in partnership with industry, environmental groups, and academia to help industry choose safer alternatives to chemicals that may pose a concern to human health or the environment. Information on chemical hazards from DfE Alternatives Assessments is combined with industry data on performance and cost to guide the choice of safer alternatives. To distinguish among alternatives, DfE evaluates data for each chemical and assigns hazard levels of high, moderate, or low for human health and environmental concerns.
DfE Alternatives Assessments will be conducted for bisphenol A (BPA), phthalates, decabromodiphenyl ether (decaBDE), hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) and nonylphenol and nonylphenol ethoxylates (NP and NPEs). Both the BPA and decaBDE efforts are under way and include the use of BPA and its alternatives in thermal paper, such as cash register receipts, and the review of flame retardant alternatives to decaBDE in products such as textiles, plastic palettes, and electronics. Assessments of phthalates, the flame retardant HBCD, and NPEs will begin in 2011.
The assessments will lead to the manufacture of safer products and reduced chemical exposures. The EPA will be accepting comment on the criteria through to January 31, 2011.
More information: Alternatives Assessments, Design for the Environment DfE

Inga Yandell
Explorer and media producer, passionate about nature, culture and travel. Combining science and conservation with investigative journalism to provide resources and opportunities for creative exploration.