Wednesday, August 10, 2011

EPA's Design for the Environment (DfE) Issues Final Alternatives Assessment Criteria

The USEPA Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics has released its final alternatives assessment criteria for evaluating human and environmental effects in accordance with its Design for the Environment (DfE) program.  DfE helps companies, states and other organizations to "identify safer alternatives to chemicals that may pose a concern to human health and the environment."  More information on the DfE program can be found on EPAs web site.

DfE Alternatives Assessments are "multi-stakeholder partnerships convened to evaluate priority chemicals and functional alternatives."  The goal is to "inform substitution to safer alternatives and reduce the likelihood of unintended consequences that might result if poorly understood alternatives are chosen."  In other words, they don't want to replace one bad chemical with another bad chemical just because they don't know enough about it.  According to DfE, its "expertise and focus is on chemical hazard," and encourages stakeholders to "assist with the selection of the scope of the alternatives assessment, help EPA consider economic realities, and identify likely functional alternatives for evaluation."

So whereas REACH in the EU specifies substances of very high concern and requires authorization for continued use (along with a substitution plan), the DfE program works directly with companies and other stakeholders to fix the problem together.

EPA is currently preparing DfE alternatives assessments for Bisphenol A (BPA), Decabromodiphenyl ether (decaBDE), and Nonylphenol ethoxylate (NPE) surfactants.  The draft reports for public comment are expected to be released by EPA later this year.  In addition, EPA has underway an alternatives assessment for Hexabromocyclodecane (HBCD) in polystyrene insulating foam.  And EPA also plans to conduct an alternatives assessment for phthalates with a kickoff meeting scheduled for August 24, 2011.

Version 2.0 of the Alternatives Assessment Criteria document can be downloaded as a PDF here.

More information and links to the phthalates kickoff meeting signup materials can be found in the right sidebar of the DfE page.

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