In March 2021, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) published a guidance document focused on the identification and selection of safer chemical alternatives. Developed within the OECD’s ad-hoc group on the substitution of harmful chemicals, the guidance aims “to advance broader agreement on a general approach and criteria for the selection of safer alternatives, with a focus on chemical substitution.” Specifically, it targets setting a basis for minimum requirements to determine that a chemical alternative is safer than the one it would substitute.

The document outlines a set of key principles, minimum criteria, recommended assessment practices, a self-assessment checklist to support practitioners, and broader sustainability considerations that can also be taken into account. It considers existing definitions of the term “safer” across US and EU agencies and provides guidance on (i) determining the scope of an assessment, (ii) implementing comparative hazard and exposure assessments, and (iii) integrating results from each through a comparison of trade-offs. A case study example is also provided that applies the presented framework to identify safer chemical alternatives for use in high-performance cleaning products.

The OECD is going to hold a webinar featuring the report on April 12, 2021, for which registration is free of charge.

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OECD (March 2021). “Guidance on Key Considerations for the Identification and Selection of Safer Chemical Alternatives.” (pdf)