Resources for retailers
What resources can help retailers ensure safer chemicals?
We recognize that considerable effort may be needed to remove a chemical of high concern from the supply chain while still providing the public with products that are effective and affordable. Unfortunately, too many suppliers faced with this challenge simply offer only slightly altered chemistries. These often prove to be “regrettable substitutes,” which are chemicals that are arguably somewhat safer than the targeted chemical of high concern, but which display hazard characteristics and exposure potential similar to the chemistries they replace. Often growing concerns are revealed gradually as health and safety data gaps on the “regrettable substitutes” are slowly filled through more research.
To step off this costly treadmill of constantly chasing and replacing alternative chemistries requires careful assessment and substitution planning. Although a commitment to continuous improvement must allow for imperfect transition chemistries, much greater attention should be paid to getting it as right as possible in the first instance.
To help ensure that your actions result in truly safer alternatives rather than regrettable substitutes, we strongly recommend using several tools to institutionalize a process of working with your suppliers to continually search for safer alternatives. Such a process could include these tools and steps:
- Search the Chemical and Materials Library of more than 22,000 substances against 40 authoritative hazard and warning lists to screen out potential alternatives of high concern. Developed by Pharos, a project of the Healthy Building Network. Sign up for a free 30 day trial at http://www.pharosproject.net/material/.
- Use the Quick Chemical Assessment Tool (QCAT) to screen and evaluate alternatives to toxic chemicals through a simplified hazard assessment tool. Developed by the Washington State Department of Ecology. Access QCAT at http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/hwtr/ChemAlternatives/QCAT.html.
- Use the GreenScreen for Safer Chemicals (GreenScreenTM) as a more comprehensive comparative hazard assessment to help identify truly safer alternatives. Developed by Clean Production Action. Access the Green ScreenTM and related resources at http://www.cleanproduction.org/Greenscreen.php.
We encourage retailers to seek additional expert assistance and advice from:
The BizNGO Working Group for Safer Chemicals and Sustainable Materials (BizNGO) is a unique collaboration of business and NGO leaders who are creating a roadmap to the widespread use of safer chemicals and sustainable materials in our economy. Spearheaded by Clean Production Action in 2006, BizNGO now includes leaders from environmental organizations and the electronics, health care, building, apparel, outdoor industry, cleaning product, and retail sectors. BizNGO issued Principles for Safer Chemicals and published The Guide to Safer Chemicals, available at http://www.bizngo.org/guide.php.
The Green Chemistry and Commerce Council (GC3) is a business-to-business forum that advances the application of green chemistry and design for environment across supply chains. It provides an open forum for cross-sectoral collaboration to share information and experiences about the challenges to and opportunities for safer chemicals and products. GC3 maintains a Retailer Portal that provides additional tools to evaluate chemical ingredients in products at http://www.greenchemistryandcommerce.org/retailer-portal/retailer-portal-database/.
Design for the Environment (DfE), a partnership program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, helps consumers, businesses, and institutional buyers identify cleaning and other products that perform well, are cost-effective, and are safer for the environment. Look for products with the DfE label. For information, visit http://www.epa.gov/dfe/.