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Environment

Strategy Offered For Choosing ‘Safer’ Chemicals

by Britt E. Erickson
October 20, 2014 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 92, ISSUE 42

No existing strategies are ideal at helping regulators, industry, and other groups choose “safer” alternatives to chemicals of concern, concludes a report from the National Research Council. These frameworks have gaps, and consistency is lacking across them, the report says. In response, the report draws on 10 existing frameworks for choosing alternative chemicals and adds new approaches to create a hybrid framework aimed at improving this process. For example, the report suggests defining what constitutes “safer” when trade-offs among chemicals are considered. What is deemed safer depends on the context and reflects “personal, corporate, legislative, or other values,” the report says. Most of the frameworks evaluated in the report examine human health and ecological hazards, critical physicochemical properties, the life cycle of chemicals, performance, and social implications. These strategies do not, however, give much consideration to exposure. The report recommends an approach that addresses both hazards of and exposure to chemicals. It also suggests more focus on the use of novel toxicity data, in silico computational models, and methods to estimate physicochemical information.

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